pigs eating

Campaigners have warned plans to build a pig megafarm in Northern Ireland could risk spreading antibiotic resistance to local residents.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics has suggested there could be significant risks of antibiotic resistant pathogens spreading from the proposed farm to locals if plans go ahead to build the farm near Limavady.

The farm, proposed by local farmer Thomas Simpson, would produce about 60,000 pigs a year, according to the Alliance.

It has claimed that intensive pig farms are “frequently contaminated by many antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as salmonella, e.coli, campylobacter, enterococci and even MRSA or clostridium difficile”, which the Alliance said could pose risks to the local community.

This is the latest objection to the plans, which have also been opposed by Friends of the Earth, Farms Not Factories and the Soil Association in a joint letter in September last year, which argued the development would “carry serious risks to the health and wellbeing of local residents”.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council had received more than 3,000 letters of objection to the plans by the start of August with consultations still taking place, according to reports by the BBC. This included concerns from the Public Health Agency and Northern Ireland Environment Agency in February.

Over 8,000 people have also signed an online petition to object to the proposed farm.

“Intensively farmed pigs receive by far the highest quantities of antibiotics in UK farming, and we know this leads to lots of different types of resistant bacteria that can transfer to humans. This is often on food, but there is also increasing evidence that it can occur through the environment,” said Suzi Shingler, campaign manager of the Alliance.

“The huge size of this pig farm will mean that this health threat to local residents will be magnified.”

However, Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said the warnings amounted to nothing more than “scaremongering”.

“This is not a large farm by any standards and as it would be over the threshold for environmental permitting it would have to adhere to strict controls and be regularly monitored as part of the permit conditions,” said Davies.

“Agriculture is one of the most highly regulating industries and therefore concerns relating to odour, environmental impact and health would all have been addressed long before the site was built. We would hope the planning authority would look at the facts provided by the independent advisor rather than listen to the scaremongering.”

The Ulster Farmers Union said it did not comment on the plans of individual farm businesses or proposed plans. Thomas Simpson was unavailable for comment.