European Court of Human Rights website in browser with company logo The European Court of Human Rights will hear the new case - Media Credit: Postmodern Studio / Alamy Stock Photo

UK Gov Taken To Court For Concealing Public Health Risks Of Factory Farming

The UK government stands accused of failing to inform its citizens of the known effects of factory farming


3 Minutes Read

Humane Being, the nonprofit behind the Scrap Factory Farming campaign, has launched a first-of-its-kind legal appeal against the UK government. 

The case will be heard in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). It claims that the government is fully aware of factory farming and the various threats it poses to human health.

Risks include the climate crisis (animal agriculture contributes 14.5 percent of greenhouse gasses, including potent methane), increased antibiotic resistance (medications are overused to prevent disease and promote faster growth in animals), and potential future pandemics. (Around 75 percent of emerging diseases are thought to be zoonotic, meaning they originate in animals.)

Taking on the government

Humane Being’s appeal was launched after the Royal Courts of Justice in London refused to grant a judicial review into the government’s lack of action surrounding factory farming.

Human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC is leading the legal bid.

He says that the UK government is failing to both inform and protect the public. He has worked with Humane Being since its attempt last year to ban factory farming in the UK. 

“This world-first case joins a growing list of cases before the ECHR seeking to address the climate crisis. But, it is unique in also addressing pandemic and antibiotic resistance risks,” Lorna Hackett, head of legal practice at Hackett & Dabbs, the firm launching the case, said in a statement.

“Unlike cases already before the court from France, Switzerland, and Portugal, our challenge to the UK Government specifically identifies the climate risks posed by runaway agricultural methane emissions and deforestation.”

“Factory farming at current levels is simply not compatible with the Government’s emission reduction commitments, including the Global Methane Pledge.”

Factory farming and disease 

Experts have warned that factory farming has the potential to contribute to another pandemic.

Dr. Alice Brough, a pig veterinarian who is a co-claimant on Humane Being’s case, said: “Intensive farms create the perfect breeding ground for disease, including those with human pandemic potential, with thousands of stressed animals crammed into filthy environments.”

“Due to the conditions and common practices, antibiotics are often required in excess on these farms, furthering the risk to humans. Every part of this practice is a ticking time bomb for our species.”

Risks to human health from factory farming are becoming more evident. Recently, superbugs were discovered in UK pork. And since the end of 2021, more than 100 cases of human avian influenza have been confirmed by the government.

Given the urgency of its case, Humane Being has requested that it is given priority assessment.

Piling pressure on the government

The new appeal adds to ongoing legal woes for the UK government. 

Environmental charity ClientEarth won a High Court landmark case in July. It proved that the government was guilty of breaching its own 2008 Climate Change Act.

It demonstrated that there was little chance of carbon budgets being met with existing initiatives. This leaves the government eight months to revise the national climate strategy. 

Environmental experts and the UK food tsar have called for a drastic reduction in meat and dairy consumption to meet climate goals. It is unknown if these will be included in the revised strategy.

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The Author

Amy Buxton

Amy enjoys reporting on vegan news and sustainability initiatives. She has a degree in English literature and language and is raising a next-gen vegan daughter.

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Timothy Conway
1 month ago

Great reporting– this is a hugely important front for legal action on behalf of the common good.

vera lockie
vera lockie
1 month ago

it’s amazing to see the glazed look in peoples eyes when one mentions factory farming , almost like ones is speaking of sand stone on the moon ! i really hope this case brings in some traction on closing at least some factory farms for a start!

Inogen MacKenzie
Inogen MacKenzie
28 days ago

Brilliant! Thank you!!

28 days ago

I’m sick to death of the scheming and hidden truths from us !!

Andrew Goti
28 days ago

I’m surprised to see the downplayed figure of 14.5% being used when several later studies on the GHE effect of animal ag have the figure calculated much higher: 87%, 63%, 51%, 18% then 14.5% at the lowest end of spectrum.

An immediatly available and cheap solution for the global environmental threat of climate change (without having to await the invention of new technological saviours):
Switch to a plant based diet.

Reforesting the huge swaths of reclaimed animal agricultural farmland can also be done as much less space is required to produce the same amount of plant-based calories and protein rich crops.

Stopping bottom sea trawling of the ocean floor will also help sequester much more carbon.

Replanting 1 trillion trees, ending the breeding of land animals and ending fishing has been calculated as a workable solution and still gives some wiggle room for flying emissions.

Glen Merzer’s book is available here:

An interview between a vegan firefighter and the author:

Greenhouse gas emmission calculations from animal agriculture by Climate Healer’s position paper in 2019 clocks in at 87% of the worldwide total:

A new paper published February 2022 calculates it at 68%:

And the Worlwatch Institute had it at 51% from their 2009 study:

Each of these 3 studies are far higher than the FAO’s original 1996 figure of 18.5% that they then went on to reduce further to 14% after farming industry pressure.

The United Nations have been urging the World shift to a plant-based food system to avoid the worst effects of climate change since their 2010 study:

28 days ago

Prime Minister Liz Truss has the goal to increase factory farming, unfortunately. Humane Beings’ efforts will fall on her deaf ears.

28 days ago

I would love to share this, but can’t see a way to do that….I’m going to take another look

Plant Based News Admin
Plant Based News Admin
22 days ago
Reply to  badger

Hi! To the left of the first paragraph you should see a rainbow panel of sharing options, twitter, facebook, IG, etc.

28 days ago

This is fantastic news! Thank you so much Michael Mansfield. Thank you so much Humane Being.
Thank God someone is finally holding them to account for this! Thank YOU for sharing it. Make them tell the truth!

Nic Cunliffe
27 days ago

This journey starts with education and significant actions on a world, national and personal level. I get how hard it is and will be for many but, given the crisis faced in the NHS, challenges being addressed at forums such as COP 27 and scenes such as the ones currently in Pakistan, to mention but a few, the time to act is now.

Removing animal product from the menu of all public buildings would be a strong message. This could be done in a phased approach start with pork for example by targeting the ones with the biggest impact / risk profiles. I get the pressure on industry job losses and the effect on families but given the consequences of failure to act.

Surely the “WHY” is by now beyond question?

These times require strong leadership, courage and commitment if we are to improve outcomes for the future of mankind .

Rosanne Howarth
Rosanne Howarth
27 days ago

I support this…great reporting.

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