Stop Industrial Chicken Farming: It's killing the Earth

by Sustainable Food Knighton

Stop Industrial Chicken Farming: It's killing the Earth

by Sustainable Food Knighton
Sustainable Food Knighton
Case Owner
Sustainable Food Knighton campaigns for food that is produced sustainably without damaging the environment. We challenge industrial farming methods that are cruel and damaging to natural ecosystems.
on 05th December 2020
pledged of £15,000 stretch target from 184 pledges
Sustainable Food Knighton
Case Owner
Sustainable Food Knighton campaigns for food that is produced sustainably without damaging the environment. We challenge industrial farming methods that are cruel and damaging to natural ecosystems.

Latest: Jan. 29, 2021

Big win for Knighton group opposing intensive poultry farming plans

I am very pleased to be able to update our supporters on the successful outcome of our campaign. This recent press release gives you the latest details:

'Grassroots environmental group Sustainable…

Read more

Who we are 

Sustainable Food Knighton was set up by a group of Knighton residents who are deeply concerned about the cumulative effects of IPUs – Intensive Poultry Units – on the landscape, rivers, ecosystems and local communities of Powys. Broiler chickens are bred for their meat and ‘harvested’ every 36 days; egg-layers survive about a year.

Initially we formed to oppose a local application, but we quickly realised that the entire situation across Powys is dire and needs to change.

We are bringing a legal challenge to require proper scrutiny of proposals for factory farms and to put an end to the casual attitude to approving these facilities that continue to destroy our environment, our countryside and air and water quality. In addition to protecting Knighton, our case has the potential to set precedent across England and Wales to ensure that councils do not turn a blind eye to the impacts of industrial farming.

Background – the problem with chicken poo

There are now, at any one time, nearly 10 million chickens housed in sheds across Powys, producing tons of excrement, both faeces and urine, mixed with used bedding, feathers and remains of feed. With nowhere else to put it, this manure is spread on nearby fields. It contains nitrogen and phosphorus, useful in small quantities as fertiliser, but toxic in high concentrations. Legislation ensuring safe levels of nitrates and phosphates on the land is still unclear and insufficient.

The manure from one or two farms might have a mild impact, but the proliferation of IPUs and other intensive agricultural practices has been a disaster. Over 40% of UK soil is over-fertilised and intensive agriculture now produces more phosphates and nitrates than sewage treatment works. Rain and flood waters carry phosphorus from the fields into rivers and lakes, causing eutrophication – the rivers literally suffocate. The phosphorus stimulates algal growth, which in turn reduces the oxygen in the rivers, eventually killing fish and other riverine species. It can take years for rivers to recover.

More and more disturbing reports are coming out about river pollution. The river Wye, formerly one of the cleanest rivers in Wales, is now clogged with green algae - a situation which has garnered national media coverage; anglers report fewer fish; walkers and all lovers of nature mourn the loss of biodiversity as fewer birds sing, insect numbers plummet, and plant species decrease. See:

Nitrogen on the other hand is particularly damaging to wild flowers, lichen and fungi. It is the one pollutant in Wales whose levels are still rising; 89% of sensitive Welsh wildlife habitats are suffering from excess nitrogen levels. They are out-competed by plants such as nettles and hemlock that thrive on nitrogen.

Nitrogen combines with hydrogen to form ammonia NH3, which travels long distances through the air, mixes with rain, and can contribute to the formation of fine particulates, a cause of concern for human health, especially in the light of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Nitrogen combined with oxygen forms nitrous oxide, or N20, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2. IPUs contribute significantly to climate change; aside from the N20 emissions, hundreds of truck movements are needed for construction and maintenance of the farms, including transporting manure and dead animals, and chicken feed is based on soya, often imported from destroyed rain forest areas in the Amazon.

Here in Knighton there is already a 34,500 Free Range Broiler Unit, the Grove, less than 2 miles from the town centre, and another broiler unit and a free-range egg unit nearby, either side of the border. Now Powys Council have given permission for a broiler unit of 110,000 chickens at Llanshay Farm on the edge of town, not far from the Grove and a proposed housing development which was also granted planning permission. Given what we now know about the pollutants from IPUs, this is a cause for grave concern.

The campaign so far and why we are taking legal action

For a year and a half SFK have opposed this application and IPUs in general. We have lobbied different authorities, pointing out that IPUs fly in the face of Wales’s and Powys’s commitments to taking action on climate change and increasing biodiversity, while de-intensifying farming.

We have talked and written to town and county councillors, visited the Senedd to voice our concerns, and asked the Welsh government to call in the application for scrutiny. We have raised awareness locally by running information stalls and holding a Covid-secure demonstration in town. We pointed out that IPUs are not compatible with Welsh government environmental legislation including the Environment Wales Act 2016 and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2019, as well as the declaration of a Climate Emergency in April 2019.

Our efforts have, so far, not been successful; the Welsh government refused to call in the application and in September 2020 it was finally approved without a full meeting of Powys Planning Committee, as in January 2020 Powys Council ruled that even applications as large as this, requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment, could be decided under ‘delegated powers’.

All this means that we feel there is no other option but to apply for a Judicial Review of the council’s decision, as we cannot allow it to go unchallenged. A judicial review is a court proceeding in which an independent judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public body; it is an important tool in a democracy that ensures accountability from authorities such as local councils.

SFK want to be clear that we are not out to persecute farmers trying to survive in difficult times. Rather, this is a case that is intended to shine a spotlight on the inertia of local and government authorities who have allowed the proliferation to continue unchecked.

We want the council and our government to change course, take their responsibilities seriously, and fulfil their commitment to supporting farmers to produce food in ways that create meaningful employment and provide good local food at fair prices, without destroying the ecosystems on which we all depend.

Why we need funds

We have a brilliant team of specialist lawyers who have advised us that we have a good case, having identified a number of areas in which the decision making process used by the planning authority has serious shortcomings. We are enormously grateful to them, especially as they are giving much of their time for free.

We have already raised a considerable sum through the generosity of individuals and sympathetic organisations, however we still need to raise more to cover legal services and potential court costs if we lose.

Hence our appeal – we need your help! If you want a world where everyone can eat well without destroying the planet in the process, where farmers and food producers are not driven to investing in costly and damaging intensive practices, but instead, use methods that increase biodiversity and actively reduce globally warming emissions, please support us, contribute and share this page as widely as possible. In return you get our heartfelt thanks – with your help we can start to make a real difference! We will update this page regularly.

Get updates about this case

Subscribe to receive email updates from the case owner on the latest news about the case.

Recent contributions

Be a promoter

Your share on Facebook could raise £26 for the case

I'll share on Facebook
Update 4

Sustainable Food Knighton

Jan. 29, 2021

Big win for Knighton group opposing intensive poultry farming plans

I am very pleased to be able to update our supporters on the successful outcome of our campaign. This recent press release gives you the latest details:

'Grassroots environmental group Sustainable Food Knighton’s battle against the spread across Powys of intensive poultry units (IPUs) received a massive boost last week, after Powys County Council conceded it had acted unlawfully in granting planning permission for an IPU.

SFK applied for a judicial review of the Council’s decision in early November and the Council conceded after a High Court Judge granted permission to proceed to a full judicial review hearing.

Powys County Council has admitted that the application should not have been approved, because there was no evidence before the Planning Officer to support the conclusion that the impacts on amenity would be acceptable because the fields would be “unlikely to be spread more than twice per annum”. In other words, it could not be assumed that the spreading of manure in order to dispose of it would not impact adversely on the local population or on people using the local area for recreation.

We are still in the process of agreeing the final draft order with the Council so that this can be approved by the court, but essentially this means that the permission for the IPU development will be quashed and, although the application can still be re-opened, the particular point conceded will have to be addressed along with, potentially, other grounds for objection that the group highlighted. These included factors such as the local impact on landscape, water and soil health, biodiversity and human health and also the cumulative impact of the hundreds of IPUs now in Powys. Taken together, the group argued, the resulting loss of biodiversity, ground and water pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on human health from ammonia emissions present a real risk, not just to Powys and Wales, but globally.

We want to give our heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to get us here, particularly the Environmental Law Foundation and our brilliant legal team - Philippa Jackson and Ruth Keating at 39 Essex Chambers, and Matthew McFeeley at Richard Buxton solicitors. Thanks also to our planning advisor, Helen Hamilton, of Marches Planning, who has been involved in this campaign from the very beginning, and to the Brecon and Radnor Branch of The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) and all other organisations and individuals who worked so hard on investigations into the environmental impacts for this planning application. Finally, a big thanks to all those many supporters who encouraged us and backed us financially both locally and nationally, through a crowd funding appeal as well as individual donations.

Sustainable Food Knighton spokesperson Camilla Saunders noted that farmers all over Wales and the UK are struggling to survive and some have given up, as weather becomes more uncertain, disease is rife among animals, and supermarkets insist on ‘cheap food’ for consumers. Of course, it is not cheap, when you look at the environmental costs, and how many farmers are going bankrupt, unable to meet the supermarkets’ conditions.

Meanwhile huge corporations such as Cargill rake in profits from intensive chicken and pig rearing as they sell the infrastructure and feed to individual farmers and make sure to do well out of it.

Ms Saunders states, “The contributions of intensive farming to ecosystem damage, biodiversity loss and climate change have been well documented. This year, pandemics permitting, the COP15 on Biodiversity will take place in China in May and COP 26, the UN climate change conference will take place in Glasgow in November. Intensive agriculture will be high on the agenda as it is now a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and plummeting biodiversity all over the world.

Powys and the Welsh government could take a lead in this, and not wait to be forced into doing the right thing by international law. Minister for the Environment, Leslie Griffiths, has agreed that farming must de-intensify, but so far nothing concrete has happened.

Refusing any further planning applications for IPUs and developing coherent agricultural policies that support farmers and their local communities would be a good start”.

23rd Jan 2021

Update 3

Sustainable Food Knighton

Nov. 26, 2020

Two interesting and relevant publications

A big Thank You everyone who has helped us to make such fantastic progress towards our target. We have every confidence that we will reach our goal but please continue to spread the word.

Two recent publications may be of interest to you. A Guardian article highlights the terrible damage done to ecosystems, wildlife and humanity by the relentless drive for soya, much of which ends up in chicken feed.

”Supermarkets and fast food outlets are selling chicken fed on imported soya linked to thousands of forest fires and at least 300 sq miles (800 sq km) of tree clearance in the Brazilian Cerrado, a joint cross-border investigation has revealed.” See:

Another recent publication provides an interesting read. Produced by a research team at the University of Chester and various partner organisations it outlines a framework to guide UK churches and other Christian organizations in formulating policy and practice in relation to farmed animal welfare. There are separate sections on chicken, fish, sheep, pigs and cattle and it provides a comprehensive summary of current farming practices and welfare categories.

Two conclusions reached are that

“Animal products are currently inexpensive for consumers to purchase, because they come from farming systems that prioritize cost above farmed animal flourishing. Progress towards higher farmed animal welfare will make animal products more expensive, but consuming higher welfare animal products need not lead to higher domestic and institutional catering budgets. Food costs can be lowered when reduced consumption of animal products is combined with increased consumption of plant-based alternatives, which generally cost less than animal products. These changes need to accompanied by a wider social commitment to ensure that everyone has the means to afford food that is healthy, environmentally sustainable, and produced to high animal welfare standards.”


“UK farmers need fair contracts. Much of the current trading of farmed animal products in the UK is unfair to farmers and their animals. Contracts do not sufficiently reward farmers, and they contain too few incentives to enable flourishing for farmed animals. Consumers, retailers, wholesalers, farmers, investors, and other stakeholders can all play roles in demanding and enabling fair trade in farmed animal products, to reward farmers for improving their animals’ opportunities to flourish.”

These are sentiments entirely in line with our campaign stance at Sustainable Food Knighton.

Update 2

Sustainable Food Knighton

Nov. 17, 2020

Bird flu outbreaks add urgency to our campaign

H5N8 bird flu has broken out in parts of England, including in Herefordshire. In response, the Welsh government has introduced an all-Wales ‘avian influenza prevention zone’ to prevent spread of the virus. Although the risk of it spreading to humans is low, it is still a possibility, as it is zoonotic – ie can jump from birds to humans. There are different strains, some more dangerous than others. The lethal 1918 flu originated in birds. 

There was an outbreak of bird flu in 1997 in Hong Kong, and more recently, in 2017, there were some cases of H5N1 SARS bird flu that spread to humans in different parts of China. Fortunately the virus was contained and so did not develop into a pandemic. But the threat is always there. Bird flu is another coronavirus that affects the respiratory tract.

It is good that the government here have taken preventative action, but now, surely, is the time to review intensive poultry production. When so many birds are kept in such close quarters, it would only take an individual animal to affect thousands of others. The virus can be transmitted via dead as well as living birds.

Covid 19 is still not under control in the UK – how would we manage if another flu got into the human population?

A huge thank you to everyone who has already supported our campaign. Please continue to help us reach our target by donating and/or sharing our crowdjustice page as widely as possible.

More information on bird flu outbreak below:

Update 1

Sustainable Food Knighton

Nov. 13, 2020

Website launched

We are delighted to announce that we now have a website where you can find more information about our campaign. There are also links to other resources and news updates. You can read about the other activities that members of Sustainable Food Knighton have been busy with over the last year in raising awareness of the issues and challenging the IPU planning decision.

please visit:

A huge thank you to everyone who has so generously supported the campaign already Please continue to share and share again!

Get updates about this case

Subscribe to receive email updates from the case owner on the latest news about the case.

    There are no public comments on this case page.