23 June 2015 by Rebecca Black
One of the best-known musicians in the world has described the plans for a massive pig farm in Co Antrim as a “horrific prospect”. Queen guitarist Brian May has spoken out in the Belfast Telegraph as Antrim and Newtownabbey Council considers plans for what will be Northern Ireland’s biggest pig farm.
Farmer Derek Hall has submitted plans for the facility on the Rae Hill Road in Newtownabbey, and argues that it will allow his pigs more space and better conditions.
More than 2,000 people have written official objection letters to the council over the plans, and 184,000 people have signed an online petition against it.
Now Mr May has added his voice to the growing global outrage the plans have sparked. He told the Belfast Telegraph he was concerned because he feels the proposed pig plant is cruel and degrading to the animals, and also expressed worry it could put smaller farmers out of business.
“Mechanised farming on this scale is a horrific prospect,” he said. “Cruel and degrading to the animals, it is the final unacceptable step into the complete denial that animals have any feelings, or any right to a decent life and a decent death. These vile factories are the antithesis of humane farming, and in the USA have already virtually wiped out traditional farmers of the land.”
Mr May has urged the councillors to say ‘no’ to the plans. “The water run-off from such plants contaminates the water table, causing irreversible damage to the environment, and has been linked to sickness in the surrounding areas,” he said. “There are so many healthier, more humane, more efficient, and ecologically more viable ways to feed ourselves. We believe these factories are an obscenity and Britain should say a firm ‘no’ to allowing them into our country.”
Mr May is a committed animal rights activist and set up the campaigning group, the Save Me Trust.
Opponents of the pig farm will be holding a public meeting tonight at 7pm at the Elim Church in New Mossley.
Derek Hall has rejected the comments by Mr May, saying his plans are “completely different” to the American pig units referred to. He has also invited the musician to his plant – if permission is granted for it to be built – to see conditions for himself. “Unlike America, the pig industry here is highly regulated and I have government inspections at least quarterly to ensure all guidelines are being met and, in my case, often exceeded and that the welfare of the pigs is of paramount importance,” he said. “In America, the pigs are weaned at an earlier age which increases dependency on antibiotics and they also use drugs that are illegal here.
“All of our animals are born and reared on our current farm before being sent to market and this would not change. Many local consumers who want to eat pork, and supermarkets who sell it, want their products to be from the UK or Ireland where they know that the welfare of the pigs is being monitored. We plan to invest millions of pounds in the very latest state-of-the-art farming methods. This will give further enhanced welfare, giving animals up to 30% more space than government legislation states with an anaerobic digester to virtually eliminate odour and a full range of technology to massively reduce noise, dust and our impact on the environment.
If we do get planning permission for the new farm, once it is built I would be proud to welcome a visit from Mr May to see the conditions and high levels of animal welfare for himself.”