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The piercing sounds of shrieking animals. The pungent smell of ammonia, emanating from endless piles of animal manure. Rivers and streams polluted by animal waste, left full of green algae. People who live near a factory farm feel its presence every minute, every day of their lives.
The impacts of the industrial meat and dairy production can be felt far beyond the borders of neighbouring towns and villages. Factory farming fuels the climate emergency, with the massive amount of greenhouse gases it releases. In every corner of the earth, it’s rivers and oceans have become polluted with animal waste. Forests are clear-cut for the cultivation of feed, causing a massive loss of biodiversity.
People living close to factory farms are standing at the frontlines of the struggle against an industry that is destroying their communities, and impacting all of us. These small communities, who live in the shadows of the farms, suffer, struggle, fight and at times win against these factories.
Greenpeace went on a journey through Europe to Spain, Denmark, France, and Italy to collect some of their stories. We’re urging you to read them, then decide for yourself. If you agree it is time to put an end to factory farming, and instead support the transition to eco farming and veggie alternatives, sign our global call to action.
The dairy factory farm near the town of Caparroso in Spain has multiple rows where calves are kept, deprived of any contact with their mothers, without the possibility to move around. Green algae clogs the waters near the farm, probably due to the high nutrient content of the disposed manure. The Valle de Odieta farm is one of the biggest dairy farms in Spain. While industrial installations are constantly getting bigger and bigger in Spain, small local farmers fear for their livelihoods.
This is Ricardo Antón, aged 56. He runs an organic horticulture farm in Caparroso, the village is next to a dairy factory farm. Ricardo caters to small clients, including two school canteens. “All these big factory farms represent a threat to the ecosystem in the area. Smaller enterprises can hardly sustain their production. The traditional farmer is disappearing,” Ricardo says.
In Denmark, outside the Vandvaerksgaarden pig factory farm in the small village of Tingerup, locals regularly see dead pigs dumped in the trash. Denmark produces around 33 million pigs annually. The country has the world’s highest production of meat per capita. Like many other farms in the area, Vandvaerksgaarden is owned by the family of Peter Kjaer Knudsen. The family has already been fined for poor animal welfare and polluting streams with manure.
This is Bente Joergensen. For more than 20 years the former high school teacher has been living in an old rural house, together with her husband, only 100 meters away from the industrial pig farm Vandvaerksgaarden. When the smell is strong, she has to wear a face mask outdoors, “The smell is so awful, that it makes me feel sick, my head aches and my eyes are red and swollen. The factory farms surrounding our town have ruined my life.”
The egg-laying hen factory farm Gallès SAS near the French village of Lescout is farming 185,000 hens. The village itself has only 700 inhabitants. Many locals have reported frequent smells and noise, and some are worried that harmful substances in the air could cause cancer. A court-appointed expert had started to investigate the situation, but up to now the local governor refuses to carry proper air quality measurements.
This is Nicolas Mougel, 31 years old. He is a father of five. The family live close to the factory farm in Lescout. When the air smells bad it becomes difficult for the family to enjoy the outdoors, and Nicolas’ children sometimes cover their faces when they play outside. Nicolas is concerned about the potential toxicity of the air they’re breathing, especially for his three month old child.
N., 62 years old, who prefers to keep her name anonymous, is administering drops to her eye to keep it hydrated. She has lived in Lescout for almost 30 years and is the only survivor of two cases of eye cancer recorded in the village. It’s an extremely rare form of cancer. Locals in the village have expressed their concerns on what, according to their calculations, is an extraordinary high rate of cancer in the area. Even though the malignant disease is healed, N.’s vision remains affected. N. recalls: “My doctors couldn’t identify the cause of my tumour, but they mentioned it could be caused possibly by the factory farm.”
This pig factory farm lies in Schivenoglia, a small village in Italy’s Lombardia region. The farm holds around 4,500 pigs. In the area there is a high concentration of intensive pig farms. A local committee is fighting against their expansion and against the construction of new installations.
Maura Cappi, aged 50, leads a local committee in the village of Schivenoglia. In 2017, Maura’s committee won a municipal referendum against the construction of a new pig factory farm in the area. The company then appealed the decision, but lost the appeal. Maura, who owns a family farm herself, is happy. But she will keep on the struggle. “This is an unhealthy industry that threatens our environment and our economy.”
Nora Holzmann is the global communications lead for the Meat and Dairy Campaign at Greenpeace