Massive factory farms bring risks, benefits

The development of massive factory farms with up to 12,500 pigs or 360,000 chickens has risks for public health but could benefit the environment, landscape and animal welfare, according to a report presented to MPs on Tuesday.

The report, based on research by four different organisations, was requested by the farm ministry in response to the development of a number of huge farms and a surge in planning applications to build more.
The public health institute RIVM warns that the risk of putting so many animals in closed environments could lead to an increased risk of animal diseases being passed on to humans.
The threat can be lessened if there is enough room between the factories and if pigs and chickens are never held together on the same location. Closed operations, where animals are kept from birth to slaughter, would stop the spread of infectious diseases, the RIVM said.
The government’s environmental think-tank NMP said such massive operations would not hurt the environment. It argues that by subjecting them to tough environmental regulations, pollution would actually decline on balance. And by introducing such big factory farms, many smaller ones would disappear from the landscape, the NMP argued.
Animal welfare advisory group RDA said the size of the operation was irrelevant in animal terms but said welfare issues had to be given the highest importance. ‘Mega big must be mega good,’ the organisation said.

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