MPs line up to oppose ‘super dairy’ plan as election looms

A HOUSE of Commons motion opposing the planned Lincolnshire 8,100-cow dairy unit has received huge levels of support among MPs.

Labour MP Eric Martlew’s Early Day Motion (EDM) had been signed by 150 MPs by the time Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the General Election today (Tuesday, April 6).

This made it one of the most popular EDMs of the current session. Of the 350 or so most recently tabled motions only two had gained more support.

The Carlisle MP’s EDM, which has the support of politicians from all parties, suggests that the cows’ ‘extremely high milk yields’ would damage their welfare. It says cows should be farmed in pasture-based systems that ‘enable them to express natural behaviours and are associated with lower levels of lameness’.

Nocton Dairies’ proposed unit was ‘taking UK dairy farming in the wrong direction’, says the EDN, entitled ‘Large-scale Dairy Units’.

EDMs are rarely debated but are primarily used to show MP support for a particular point of view. The level of support for this one just ahead of the election reaffirms the intense public interest in the controversial proposal and its growing political importance.

However, the farmers behind the development will take some comfort in the fact that the agricultural spokesmen from the three main political parties have all voiced their support for the plan.

Farming Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said he was ‘not opposed in principle’ to the plan and was ’60:40 with Nocton’.

Conservative Shadow Farming Minister Jim Paice was unequivocal in his support. He said the welfare of cows was ‘about management, not scale’ and welcomed the decision to plough investment into UK dairying.

Their Liberal Democrat counterpart Roger Williams also dismissed suggestions that Nocton’s scale would have an impact on the welfare of the cows.

The public is also showing increasing opposition to the plans, on the back of campaigns by animal welfare organisations vehemently opposed to the plan.

A 10 Downing Street petition calling for a public inquiry into the development and the suspension of the application until this is complete had been signed by 1,204 people when the election was called.

Full text of the EDM

That this House is firmly opposed to the proposed dairy unit in Lincolnshire housing up to 8,100 cows that will be kept indoors for most of the year.

Notes that the cows are likely to produce extremely high milk yields

Further notes that the key finding of a 2009 scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority is that breeding for high milk yield is the major factor causing poor welfare to cows

Believes that cows should be farmed in pasture-based systems as these enable them to express natural behaviours and are associated with lower levels of lameness;

Further believes that the proposed unit is taking UK dairy farming in the wrong direction and that the way forward lies in the use of healthy robust herds with lower milk yields but higher net margins for farmers due to lower culling rates, lower heifer replacement costs and higher sale prices for their calves and cull cows

And urges retailers and producers of dairy products not to source milk from such large-scale intensive dairy units where cows receive only minimal grazing.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I think it is about time that such herd sizes are encouraged. Similar herd sizes operate in the Middleeast where welfare is of the highest standards. Consumer ignorance and welsfare activists need to understand dairy cow husbandry before opposing such things out of pure ignorance and in keeping with the fashion of the day. Good luck to the farmers on this venture!!!!

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  • we are not the middle east, since when is using cows as machines become fashion, i call it money making cruelty

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  • The way human beings treat animals - as non-sentient beings who are there solely to be abused for profit - is the great shame of the modern world.

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