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The smell, the noise, the pollution: they call them farms, but they are factories

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  • A trip through industrial farms in Spain, France, Denmark, and Italy, where more and more neighbors suffer the consequences of the production of meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Intensive animal husbandry in the European Union has exceeded the limits considered safe by the scientific community.
  • In Noviercas (Soria), what would be the largest ‘milk factory’ in the EU is being developed: 23,000 cows in a town that does not reach 200 inhabitants.

Bente Joergensen lives near a pig farm, in the town of Tingerup in Denmark.

What does it feel like to live with an industrial livestock farm? To what extent does it affect daily life? A campaign by the environmental NGO Greenpeace visited, between December 2018 and March 2019, several farms and the surrounding communities in France, Denmark, Spain, and Italy to learn how the affected neighbors live.

More than 330 million cows, pigs, and sheep are registered in the EU. To this figure, we must add several billion chickens raised in captivity every year for slaughter. The growth of industrial livestock and farming exceeds the limits considered safe by the scientific community when assessing greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient flows, and biodiversity loss. That is why groups of activists are asking that the level of meat and milk production be reduced by half by 2050.

Neighbor of one of the largest dairies in Spain

Ricardo Antón, ‘Ritxi’ among his friends, is 56 years old, manages an organic vegetable farm that serves small consumers and two school canteens in Caparroso, Navarra and believes that “industrial farms represent a threat to the area’s ecosystem” . In addition, “small businesses can hardly maintain their production levels.” Anton defends that the more traditional farms, on a smaller scale and with a greater diversity of crops and breeding, are disappearing.

In Spain, over the past 50 years, a transition has been made from traditional and extensive animal husbandry to industrialization and concentration of farms. Not far from where Antón works, the dairy farm that operates under the name Valle de Odieta SCL is one of the largest in the country. In November 2018, they had 5531 cows, 60% more than allowed by law according to official data provided by the Government of Navarra to Greenpeace. The owners did not want to provide a comment for this report. But at the same time they are developing what would be, if materialized, the largest milk production facility in the EU, with more than 23,000 cows in Noviercas, a town that does not reach 200 inhabitants in the province of Soria. They will do it after the governments of Navarra,

Live near a pig farm in Denmark

Bente Jørgensen was a teacher at an institute and has been living with her husband, Søren Hansen, a chemical engineer, for more than 20 years in Tingerup, 60 kilometers west of Copenhagen. The Vandvaerksgaarden pig farm is 100 meters from your house.

Jørgensen says the couple is afraid of exposure to potentially toxic substances in fertilizer and air. When the smell increases, Jørgensen leaves the house with a mask. “The smell is so unpleasant that it makes me sick. My head hurts, the reds get red and swollen. I feel that the smell, noise, and dust of the farm are destroying our lives.”

Jørgensen likes to spend time outdoors but limits it due to the smell that leaves the farm, so bad that he fears the consequences and the impact on his health of long-term exposure. He has to clean the outside gate of his house several times a year due to the growth of mosses that, he believes, are born from the amount of nitrogen that travels in the farm’s ammonia emissions. Every Thursday the dead pigs of the zone are collected and until that happens, the neighbors affirm that the dead pigs are outside the breeding places. Under Danish law, they should be covered.

The Vandvaerksgaarden pig farm is one of nine managed by Peter Kjaer Knudsen and his three children around Tingerup, Bukkerup, Soderup and Baarup. These farms together produce almost 90,000 pigs and more than 100,000 piglets for slaughter. In early 2019, Peter Kjaer Knudsen was found guilty by a local court of exceeding by 9 percent the number of pigs he could raise during the years 2010 and 2011. Knudsen also did not want to give his version of the facts for this report.

Denmark produces 33 million pigs per year and is one of the largest producers per capita in the world. Most of that meat is exported as a destination. Denmark exports almost 60% of pork meat throughout the European Union. The number of pig farms decreases but the ones that survive are getting bigger. Greenpeace has asked the Danish government to investigate the health risks derived from ammonia emissions that affect those who live in its surroundings, something that has already been considered as a public health emergency in other countries.

An egg factory in France

The Lescout school in France is just 500 meters from the Gallès SAS chicken farm. Opened in 1980, it has not stopped growing and after an extension in 2016, it houses 185,000 laying hens, a figure that multiplies by 250 the number of inhabitants of the town. Its owner plans to expand it further and has already requested permission for another building.

“Some mornings, the smell is so corrosive to the throat and nose that for the safety of children, we prefer to stay indoors during recess,” explains Cathy Double, who was a teacher’s aide at the school.

The farm is near Gua Castle, a historic monument owned by Catherine Gavelle, a 57-year-old architect. “I think that this type of farm-factory, for starters, should never have been built. The construction of an industrial facility in a town and next to a protected building should not be authorized. It affects my life visually, loudly and smelly,” it states.

Intensive pig farming in Italy

Adalgisa Martorelli, 55, lives in Cadelbosco, a town in Emilia-Romagna and suffers from a respiratory illness that, she explains, worsens in the presence of strong odors. She has been forced to leave her home during the times when manure is spread on two pig farms, Azienda Agricola Fontanelle SNC di Ferrari e C and Allevamento Azienda Agricola Tenuta Vincenzo Srl. She has been hospitalized several times and sometimes has to wear an oxygen mask at home.

Although there is no medical evidence of the link between his illness and the contamination of the farm, Martorelli says he has been better since one of the farms stopped spreading manure near his home.

Ten years ago, Martorelli created a committee with some of his neighbors and documented leaks from one of the farms, Azienda Agricola Fontanelle SNC di Ferrari e C, which dumped waste into local aquifers. The authorities forced the company to stop the manure extension process for five years to some of the nearby fields and reduce the number of pigs in the facility from 12,500 to 3,899.

The businessmen who spoke with The Guardian said that the waste leaks were due to a break in one of the pipes and that it was an isolated event. Also that the reduction in the number of animals is not related to these leaks, which is due to the complaints of the committee in defense of clean air and that the emissions are below the limits set by the Italian and European laws for pig herds.

The other farm, Azienda Agricola Tenuta Vincenzo SRL, has received permission to increase its number of heads from 2,000 to 7,000. The Martorelli committee is opposed to enlargement. “That new extension request terrifies me. If it happens, I will not be able to continue living here. I will have to make the decision to leave my house,” he complains.

The owner of the farm, Dario Gualini, told The Guardian that he has the environmental permits to carry out the expansion and that he will closely monitor the possible impacts. “We have adopted the best techniques available in the field of animal welfare and protection against bad smell as well as environmental pollution. We are convinced, like the authorities that have issued us permits, that our structure will become an example in the future of the best conditions for both animals and humans. “

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Bolsonaro appeals to “patriotism” to hide Amazon deforestation data

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  • The scandal has erupted after the disclosure of data on the increase in deforestation by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
  • INPE recorded almost 2,000 km² of deforested areas last June, an increase of 24.8% compared to the same period in 2018.

Bolsonaro appeals to

No one better than a military man like Bolsonaro, in addition to three decades of a political career, to know that the measurement systems of the conservation of the Amazon rainforest touch perfection in Brazil. They opened in the early seventies and since the late eighties are a world reference. The president’s plans – the exploitation of Brazilian natural wealth -, however, are far from the moral that may lead to the analysis of the results of official studies published, for example, by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Among the advanced control systems of INPE, Deter-B stands out, which identifies and maps in real-time all kinds of alterations on the surface of the Amazon rainforest. This program detected in the month of May 1,102.57 km² of deforestation alert areas, of which 739.68 km² correspond to the “complete elimination of forest cover (low cut)”. In the month of June, the alert areas have reached 2,072.03 km², with 920.21 km² of total elimination. The states of Mato Grosso and Pará take the worst part. The data of the Deter-B can be consulted through the Terra Brasilis website.

“The area of ​​deforestation with a flat cut in the last three months (April, May, June) accumulates 1,907.1 km²,” indicates the INPE. “In 2018, 1,528.2 km² were registered in the same period, that is, a growth of 24.8% is observed.” It is difficult for Jair Bolsonaro to get away from the anti-environmental discourse he has shown in recent times and to refute the exhaustive and scrupulous data of such praised institution of his own Government. Therefore, the president has chosen to appeal to nationalism and the people’s own love.

In recent days he has dictated, first, the basis of what the director of the National Space Research Institute, Ricardo Galvão, should do every time the reality of deforestation appears before his eyes: “For responsibility, respect and patriotism, look for your immediate boss, in this case, the minister: look, minister, we have some data here, we will disclose them, because we must disclose them, be prepared because you will suffer some criticism. ”

Bolsonaro told the press that the disclosure of these figures makes trade agreements difficult, because of the negative image of the country, and that they should not come to light without him having prior knowledge. He accused the director of the INPE, in addition, of producing and propagating data “that may not coincide with the truth”, and of being “at the service of some NGO”.

Connoisseur of Bolsonaro’s modus operandi with whom they do not align exactly with his ideas – attacks in public were a prelude to the departures of the Minister of Education, the Secretary of the Government Secretariat and the President of the National Development Bank – Ricardo Galvão has responded from its visible head position of the alarming deforestation data of the Amazon: “It is part of a plan to burn me.” According to Galvão, the ultra-right-wing leader “has taken a cowardly, cowardly attitude of making a statement in public, perhaps waiting for him to ask for resignation, but I’m not going to do that.”

The voices supporting INPE’s work have been cascading. Edegar de Oliveira (director of conservation and restoration of ecosystems of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Brazil) assures eldiario.es that “the data is quite consistent, reliable, extremely relevant for its scientific quality, and for the fact of being transparent”. In his opinion, Bolsonaro’s attacks have more to do with his “lack of preparation” than with nationalism, and they sin more of “immediacy” than of patriotism. “There are conscious, worried producers in favor of sustainable productions; Brazil does not need to deforest to continue supplying the commodities market,” explains de Oliveira, disturbed by the attitude of a president who “goes against it.”

The Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), commanded by its president Ildeu de Castro Moreira, has published a manifesto in defense of INPE, its director and its investigations. “In science, the data can be questioned, but always with solid scientific arguments, and not for motivations of an ideological, political or any other nature,” they point out in the text.

The SBPC, together with the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, among other scientific institutions, has also sent a direct letter to the president, with a copy to the Ministers of Agriculture, Science and Technology and Environment. Briefly explain, in the letter, the broad spectrum of the word deforestation: “It is not only about conserving the jungle as an essential system for the regulation of the process of climate change, of international interest, but also of the preservation of the rich biodiversity and on the survival of Brazilian agriculture throughout the country, particularly in the center-west and in the southeast, whose rainfall regimes depend fundamentally on the existence of the Amazon rainforest and its sustainable exploitation. “

The Minister of Science and Technology, Marcos Pontes, has quoted the director of the INPE to discuss the data, and the script has not been skipped: “I understand and share the strangeness expressed by our President.” Pontes, lieutenant-colonel of the Brazilian Air Forces, one of the most respected pieces of the Executive and the first South American astronaut to travel to space, also knows Bolsonaro’s way of acting when he wants to corner a high position that hinders him.

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‘Fridays for Future’ asks to declare the Climate Emergency in the ‘Magdalena Manifesto’

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Four young members of the Cantabria and Bilbao movement urge the Government to apply “concrete measures” against climate change.

Fridays for Future

Four young members of the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement in Cantabria and Bilbao have made a public reading in Santander today of the ‘Magdalena Declaration for Climate Emergency’, in which they urge the Government to declare the State of Climate Emergency and ask for “concrete measures” against climate change.

In the statement, which coincides with the course ‘Youth and climate change’ held at the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP), they regret that in recent months they have “broken records” in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, found “mountains of plastics thousands of meters deep “in the oceans or reached” extreme temperatures “in several countries. “Is this the legacy you want to leave us?” The young people have asked.

Faced with this situation, they have called to “choose” between policies that “do not respect the fundamental rights of people” and that “attack the Earth” or “step forward boldly” and demand measures that “respect the dignity of peoples and their land without putting our planet on the tightrope. “

As they recalled, youth and student movements in Europe “have awakened the need” to take these “urgent” measures that improve the quality of life, respect the environment and do not endanger the future of human beings as a species.

Specifically, they demand that governments declare the State of Climate Emergency in Cantabria, and in the Spanish State, as well as that they undertake to promote “concrete and urgent measures” to achieve, “at a minimum”, the objectives established in the Agreements of Paris and comply with the recommendations established by the IPCC. “Enough with short-term policies. We want a future, not the bleak landscape that is presented to us,” they have apostilled.

Similarly, they demand “more political strength” and “firm hand” in the face of the actions of large companies and economic capitals that, in their opinion, “reproduce dynamics of unsustainable economic growth and have led to the decadent current situation.”

“Most of these large companies perpetuate extractive and ecocidal policies that go against life. The discourse of green development does not help us unless it is accompanied by social and global justice and associated with binding policies. Biocentric political lines must be implemented: that is, to govern not only for people but for all other forms of life. We want to put life at the center, “they point out.

Social economy, justice, and education

To do this, they urge to “leave behind once and for all” economic models that “go against life” and that “prioritize growth and economic benefits above all.” According to young people, “it is time to promote social economies that are committed to the decline and where ecosystems and all their life forms are the axes on which to work.”

They also highlight the importance of justice, democracy and transparency acting as “fundamental pillars” of all the measures that are applied with respect to climate change, and ask to establish a binding citizen decision-making mechanism, for which , they say, “it will be necessary to establish verifiable and measurable indicators and objectives.”

On the other hand, they have underlined the role of education, which “must provide the tools to society” to demand that action “on the basis of universal scientific consensus”.

In his opinion, education must respond “to the rejections of those who deny the objective truth of the causes and impacts of current climate change in our lives”, so they demand proposals from universities for new educational and communicative models.

Social and youth mobilization

They also consider social mobilization “essential” to “force and demand political leaders” to take “urgent”, “effective” and “deep” measures with the aim of curbing ecological deterioration.

In addition, they urge to “increase the visibility” of scientific knowledge and its impact on society through “new patterns of education and communication at all levels and sectors”, in order to “feedback the strength of youth and social movements so that society and its political and economic leaders “react before it is too late.”

“Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity in its entire history, and to address this situation, all people must act, more than ever, in a united and coordinated way. We know that we are over time but we can start here and now. Together. Now! “concludes the statement.

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