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Campaigner George Monbiot blames eating chicken for river Wye pollution

13 Dec 2021 2 minute read
The river Wye from Symonds Yat Rock (picture: Mat Fascione / geograph) and inset, George Monbiot (John Russell / Flickr)

Gavin McEwan, local democracy reporter

Environmental campaigner George Monbiot has blamed eating chicken for pollution in the river Wye.

He was responding to a debate on whether installing incinerators to burn waste from poultry farms in the river’s catchment area could prevent pollution arising from these from entering the river.

Monbiot argued that people do not need to eat chicken and criticised conservationists who “rail against these disasters, but carry on eating meat like there’s no tomorrow”.

He also claimed that animal farming is the “world’s greatest cause of ecological destruction”.

Chicken manure spread on surrounding fields is believed to contribute to the high levels of phosphate in particular entering the river, leading to periodic algal blooms which harm fish and other wildlife.

In October one of the largest poultry farm operators in the area, Avara Foods, said it would work to remove phosphate from poultry manure by employing chemical stripping and pyrolysis, a form of incineration.

The Wye Catchment Conservators, which represents fishery owners of the river Wye and its tributaries, appeared to welcome this.

‘Still needs chicken’ 

It tweeted: “The UK still needs chicken, so the IPU’s [intensive poultry units]  have to go somewhere, and who would compensate the owners of those removed? So a practical and deliverable solution is needed, and fast.”

But Monbiot replied: “I think it would be better to say ‘people in the UK choose to eat chicken’. We do not NEED chicken.

“It’s time conservationists became bolder and spoke out against the world’s greatest cause of ecological destruction: animal farming.”

He added: “River conservationists I meet rail against these disasters, but carry on eating meat like there’s no tomorrow. It’s as if they occupy two different planets at once.”

Campaigning Twitter user 3 Wyes Women was sceptical of Avara’s proposed solution, saying: “Can someone please explain the cumulative environmental impact of numerous industrial incinerators run by chicken farmers in the Wye catchment?”

They claimed chicken litter incineration had already been rejected in the US on air pollution grounds.

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Martin Owen
Martin Owen
2 years ago

I seem to recall that the Welsh Government funded a Centre for Excellence in Anaerobic Digestion at the University of South Wales – I would think they have a solution.

2 years ago

Fuhrer designate Monbiot ranting again, enjoying his soapbox when there are far more sensible alternatives. The eco Fascist movement is out to make everyone accept their orthodoxy without any scope for choice in the matter. I have massive sympathy with those people who are hostile to those mass production techniques that have been fostered by big business, the major retailers and governments. We don’t need those “farms” that force feed 100’s of 1000’s of animals in absurd conditions to feed our communities. Small flocks of birds suffice just like small herd of cattle or small flocks of sheep ideally feeding… Read more »

2 years ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Your final comments are simply not true. Most eco concious people are also highly concerned with air miles and the associated carbon emmissions. They want to see agricultural practices transform to include the growing of fruit, vegetables, salad plants and flowers, right here.

They want to see Welsh farmers in control of their land, managing it in a sustainable way….. and are as far from being fascists as Boris Johnson is from being Welsh.

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