Too Much Slurry is a campaign against the harm caused to local communities by intensive farming.
The harm is UK-wide and we hope to provide a website that threatened communities can go to when trying to protect:
- their environment,
- their quality of life,
- and their health
from the consequences of intensive farming.
The threat is caused by the owners of large agribusinesses who ignore their responsibilities to their neighbours and ignore inadequately policed regulations.
Our hope is that together we will achieve change.
The Industrialisation of Farming
Over the last fifty years there have been major changes in farming.
Changes in animal husbandry, in farming practices, in the size of farm machinery, in the increased use of chemicals etc. etc. etc. have together produced a revolution in the way we use the countryside.
We see the results of this revolution in a variety of ways:
- the relocation of animals from field to barn so that more and more of our fields are empty of animals;
- the ever larger agricultural machinery we now encounter on our roads;
- the way fields are cultivated and used e.g. fields full of polythene tunnels or solar panels; fields used as “spreading fields” on which waste from intensive farms is heavily spread three, four and even five times a year;
- the removal of hedgerow and spinney; and
- the blanket use of antibiotics to keep intensively farmed animals “healthy” in extraordinarily crowded conditions.
We are witnessing the industrialisation of farming.
Intensive Dairy Farming
A significant step in the industrialisation of farming is the move to intensive dairy farming.
On the Hartland Peninsula in North Devon a farmer has built – without planning permission, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a few hundred yards from the coast – a Slurry Lagoon with the capacity to store & then release for spreading some 20 millions gallons of slurry each year.
Currently there are 1,000 dairy cattle on this one farm.
If the farmer obtains retrospective planning permission for this Slurry Lagoon he will be able to substantially increase his herd from 1,000 cows with minimal difficulty.
The construction of this Slurry Lagoon means that the farmer has enormous capacity to store and spread slurry provided he has access to sufficient land upon which to spread it. The farmer is therefore voracious in the acquisition of land upon which he can spread slurry and strives to maximise the volume of slurry that he can spread upon each acre.
The various authorities responsible for monitoring the way in which he carries out his activities are impotent in the face of his determination.
The impact upon the residents living close by is to destroy their quality of life.
These residents repeatedly suffer the stench from the slurry (which is inherently different to the historic smell of cow dung). They suffer the noise of large tractors pulling 4,000 gallon slurry tankers as they roar past their homes (three or four slurry tankers spreading at least 12,000 gallons of slurry an hour for twelve hours a day over four day periods have been recorded i.e. in excess of half a million gallons of slurry spread within a few days on a few fields). They suffer headaches and coughs from the air pollution that is generated around their homes, their eyes sting and they have good reasons to fear the long term consequences for their health.
The impact is significant upon many residents in the area and not just upon those in the immediate proximity. The stench occurs over a wide area. The increased volume of large vehicle traffic changes the ambiance of an area. The damage to roads and verges that results is highly visible. The air pollution that results and the damage to the watercourses affects the whole community.
In addition local businesses in the tourist industry can be greatly damaged.
And this is just the beginning.
In less than ten years this one farmer has created a herd across three farms in close proximity of some 3,000 cattle.
Over the next ten years we believe that this one farmer will seek to create a herd of double or triple this size. (Some years ago he sought planning permission with a view to establishing an 8,000 herd at Nocton in Lincolnshire and every indication is that he will increase the size of his herd in Hartland without regard to the impact upon his neighbours.)
On the Hartland Peninsula there are other farms that have recently developed large facilities for intensive dairy herds and nearby residents are already being affected by their activities. (We call this “The Billy Goats Gruff’ Effect”: other farmers waiting to implement intensive facilities of their own once they see how the first intensive farmer is treated by the various authorities responsible for monitoring slurry spreading activities.)
The Issue is “UK Wide”
Although some of those living in the area are not affected by these developments at the moment, it is only a matter of time until it adversely affects the quality of life of all those in the rural community in North Devon. Similar developments have already been seen in other communities across the UK.
Although “Too Much Slurry” originates from a desire to protect a single community on the Hartland Peninsula it is clear to all of us that the issues we face in Hartland are faced by other communities across North Devon, across the South West and indeed across the whole of the UK.
We wish to prompt the effective regulation of this movement towards the industrialization of farming and we are seeking to change the planning regulations to protect residents and communities close to intensive farms whether they be dairy, pig or chicken farms or close to Anaerobic Digesters (“Ads”) that produce digestate that is then spread in vast quantities on nearby fields.
A simple step would be to characterize fields that receive the slurry from intensive farms or digestate from Ads as “spreading fields” and to require planning permission for fields to be used as “spreading fields”. In that way the frequency, the timing, the intensity and the manner of spreading can be subject to regulation as can the content of the slurry or digestate. All very modest requirements when one considers that homes will abut the “spreading fields” upon which the slurry is spread. And when the spreading of slurry becomes the principle value generator of a field it is difficult to maintain that the field is being used for “agricultural purposes”.
A simple step would be to require all Local Authorities to monitor impact upon the air quality, the water quality and the volume of traffic surrounding intensive farms.
A simple step would be to require all intensive farms to be licensed with conditions of use that are easily enforceable by Local Authorities on behalf of affected residents and businesses.
We also wish to prompt research into the health implications upon the human population of the frequent spreading of millions of gallons of slurry close to homes and communities.
What You Can Do
To achieve our objectives we require the active support of as many people as possible.
We are asking everyone to:
- email your local MP and express your concern about what is happening around you;
- send the same email to your County Councilor, your District Councilor and to the Chairman of your Parish Council;
- send the same email to the head of the planning department of your local authority and copy the chair of the Planning Committee of that local authority;
- send the same email to the local environmental groups that work for the area in which you live and ask for their help;
- if you are willing to make your objection public, please copy your email to email@example.com and we will put your locations problems up on the website to generate support for you;
- copy your letter to your neighbours and ask them to do what you have done; and finally
- register on Too Much Slurry.
(That may appear to be a lot to do but in reality the actions involve writing one email clearly expressing the problems your community faces and then sending the same email it to various people.)
Alone we can do nothing. Together we can protect our homes and our environment from this real and growing threat.
We Are Pro-Farming
Finally, can we make it clear that we are not “anti-farming”.
We are against practices that have developed recently without regard to the well being of the communities in which farms are located.
We know from conversations with many of our neighbouring farmers that they too share our apprehension about the move to intensive farming. They tell us that the problem is money. The money behind the large intensive farms is just too great for many farmers to refuse to co-operate with the intensive farms and that money dominates the farming agenda in both the local and national community. That wall of money is buying up traditional farms as farmers die and their children decide not to farm OR as farmers decide that the economic benefit of selling land and banking the proceeds far outweighs the economic benefit of farming the land.
Many of our neighbouring farmers also share our view that the planning rules & processes governing development in the countryside have not kept up with the consequences of this move to larger & larger herds. The know that the highways’ authorities, planning departments and environmental agencies have all turned a blind eye to the problems associated with these larger herds and factory farming techniques and they know that this is encouraging the development of other intensive farms.
Communities Affected Across The UK
We are now in contact with more than twenty different communities across the UK damaged by the storage and spreading of slurry or digestate. These locations are listed here.
We believe that these twenty different communities are just the tip of the iceberg and we urge every individual who is affected by the storage and spreading of slurry or digestate to contact Too Much Slurry by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can bring change.