Farming News - Farm operator prosecuted for keeping too many pigs

Farm operator prosecuted for keeping too many pigs

03 Jan 2012
Livestock

The owners of an intensive pig breeding and rearing unit in Dorset have been ordered to pay £61,500 for a number of offences, including extending their operation beyond the permitted boundary and exceeding the number of animals they are allowed to keep.

 

The owners of an intensive pig breeding and rearing unit in Dorset have been ordered to pay £61,500 for a number of offences, including extending their operation beyond the permitted boundary and exceeding the number of animals they are allowed to keep. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

By operating Crockway Farm in the way they did, brothers James and Mark Wright,  increased the risk of pollution and were in breach of environmental regulations.

Located near Dorchester, Crockway Farm can keep up to 4,506 production pigs and 2,672 sows at any one time. The farm is divided into two units – one for breeding sows and the other where animals are kept until they reach a size where they can be slaughtered or sent to other farms for finishing. 

 

Limits on animal numbers are set by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. A number of factors are taken into account when determining a farm permit including ammonia emissions, slurry and manure production, effluent discharges, odour and noise and the containment of potential pollutants.

 

Crockway Farm is one of twelve pig units operated by James and Mark Wright who traded as JMW Farms Partnership, based in Northern Ireland. The farm was issued with a permit in January, 2008.

 

The unit lies within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone above a major aquifer. It is also close to the Cerne & Sydling Downs Special Area of Conservation and the Hog Cliff Site of Special Scientific Interest. The River Frome is only a short distance from the farm.

 

The farm was first suspected of being in breach of its permit when an Environment Agency officer visited the site in March 2009 and saw that additional buildings had been constructed. One extended beyond the site boundary in breach of the farm’s environmental permit.

 

Over a six month period the defendants profited from their illegal operation prompting the Environment Agency and their financial investigators to make a confiscation order.

 

Agency officers also found an uncovered slurry tank during an inspection of the farm. The farm’s permit states that slurry stores must be covered so as to reduce levels of pollution.

 

His Honour Judge Jarvis, sitting at Dorchester Crown Crown, said: ‘The permit for protecting the environment has been breached. The perception of farming has changed, but those responsible for running a farm must have an eye for the environment.. There are very real anxieties from farming of pigs in vulnerable areas of countryside. In this case the farmer paid little regard for what he should have known about his environmental permit.’

 

Following a four-day contested confiscation hearing JMW Farms Partnership, of Cortynan Road, Tynan, Armagh, Co Armagh, Ireland, were ordered to pay £36,000 in confiscation, were fined a total of £14,500 and ordered to pay £11,000 costs.

 

The company pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007and 2010 including building additional pig housing and keeping additional animals above the maximum stated in a permit, failing to cover an above ground slurry tank, failing to provide secondary containment for two oil tanks, and washing out a pig houses in a way that was in breach of permit.

 

Dave Womack, for the Environment Agency, said: ‘The farm was non-compliant and they were keeping a large number of pigs illegally. It would appear the operators were more concerned with expanding their business and boosting profits than ensuring the environment was protected from pollution.