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

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

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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