My name is Luís Ferreirim. I am the Head of Agriculture at Greenpeace Spain, and I am being sued for speaking up about the damage being done by industrial farming in Spain.

The company Valle de Odieta S.C.L. owns what may be Spain’s largest dairy-cattle farm, located in Caparroso, with as many as 7,200 cows. But that is not all. Valle de Odieta S.C.L. is also behind a gigantic factory farm project that’s planned to be built in Noviercas, a small town in northeast Spain with a population of less than 150 people.

Picture showing Luis Ferrerim, Head of Agriculture at Greenpeace Spain, in front of the Valle de Odieta factory farm in Caparroso, Navarra, Spain. © Greenpeace / Pedro Armestre
Luis Ferrerim, Head of Agriculture at Greenpeace Spain, in front of the Valle de Odieta factory farm in Caparroso, Navarra, Spain. © Greenpeace / Pedro Armestre

If the company gets its way, the new mega farm will contain 23,520 dairy cows with a severe impact on the environment and devastating consequences for the small community of Noviercas. If we don’t act now, this project could become the largest factory farm in Europe and among the five largest in the world.

Greenpeace Spain has for years been speaking out about the massive environmental and human impacts of these industrial facilities, which pollute air and groundwater, mistreat animals, and create an unbearable environment for anyone unfortunate enough to live near these farms

Now Valle de Odieta S.C.L. has filed a lawsuit against me. I am being summoned to an “act of conciliation”, where their goal is to get me to retract everything critical I have said about them. The company claims that I have made “false, slanderous, and insulting” statements that affect their honour, reputation, and business. But I refuse to be silenced.

Dairy Factory Farm in Caparroso, Spain. © Tania Garnica / Greenpeace
Dairy factory farm owned by Valle de Odieta S.C.L near Caparroso, Spain. Calves are kept in multiple rows in small units, unable to turn around and deprived of contact with their mothers. © Tania Garnica / Greenpeace

Here’s the story they don’t want me to tell you

Valle de Odieta S.C.L.’s activity in Caparroso has been far from clean. Their contempt for the environment and the animals they exploit has led to 19 disciplinary proceedings by the Government of Navarra such as:

Poor care of animals, mutilations, spills, use of animal medicines on farms without medical prescription, and non-compliance with environmental authorisation, holding 5,000 cows when only a maximum of 3,450 was authorised. This information comes from official documents which Greenpeace Spain and I gained access to and simply shared with the public.

In February 2021 they went even further causing a massive spill of toxic farm waste that affected a unique conservation area in the Aragón River. An area which serves as a refuge for endangered species such as the European mink.

After receiving an SOS distress call from local groups, a Greenpeace Spain team travelled to the Aragón River area to witness the environmental disaster, document it, and inform the public.

Bearing witness is one of the roles of Greenpeace and it’s one of the things I like most about my job: being the eyes of thousands of people, exposing the damage that a few greedy, reckless corporations and people are causing to our wonderful planet. Obviously, sharing the truth is not to the liking of those who directly benefit from the destructive industrial agricultural model and its factory farms.

It is time to put an end to factory farming

Factory farms are a major issue across all of Europe, harming the environment and the climate, mistreating animals, and driving small farmers out of business. The total number of farms in the EU has declined rapidly in the past decades while meat production in many EU countries is rising. The remaining and new farms are becoming gigantic with a lower diversity of animal breeds, creating animal factories with meat and dairy destined for both internal and export markets.

I am not the first one the industry tries to gag with a lawsuit here in Spain, but I hope I can be the last. Other people they’ve tried to silence include Manuel Garcia, farmer and ecologist in Galicia who stood up to the Coren meat company, and 14 collectives who spoke out against the Caparrosa mega dairy farm.

These cases are known as SLAPPs – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and are not designed to seek justice but are simply a tool used by corporations and powerful individuals to attempt to bully and intimidate their critics into silence. 

But, all the people prosecuted to date here in Spain have made it very clear: they will not silence us. We will continue to say out loud: No factory farms! 

Share this story to help us show the meat and factory farming industry that we cannot be silenced. Together, let’s #StopFactoryFarms.

What else can you do? One of the most useful things everyone can do to take action on climate change right now is to enjoy a more plant-based diet. You can also ask city politicians or employers for more plant-based food in your workplace, schools, universities, and public canteens, and be conscious of the provenance of the meat you consume.

We can directly transform agriculture by demanding our governments support small-scale, ecological farmers and those who produce meat and dairy in a way the planet can sustain.

Luís Ferreirim is Head of Agriculture at Greenpeace Spain.