The traditional image of the small Irish family farm is slowly slipping away with many farms growing more industrialised in response to ambitious production targets set by the State.
This is seen in the pig and poultry sectors, with farms increasing in size and the use of industrial sheds to house animals that has raised welfare concerns.
Over 85% of pigs, for example, are concentrated in just 10% of large farms, many of which house over 10,000 animals, while animal rights groups have claimed that almost two million hens live in cages in a space the size of a sheet of A4 paper.
There is also concern about disease outbreak from animals kept in crowded conditions, with 75% of emerging infectious diseases over the past 30 years coming from animals. The EU is set to step up rules on factory farming in a bid to limit the potential for another pandemic.
Antibiotic resistance is another concern on poultry farms, with scientists from Trinity College Dublin detecting veterinary medicines added to chicken feed in groundwater in 2020.
The high stocking rate of animals in all three sectors has also raised concerns about soil, water and air pollution from ammonia emissions - with the agricultural sector accounting for 98% of the emissions in Ireland.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to examine the extent of the increase in factory farming in Ireland and the role that the State’s agricultural policy has played in the move to a more intensive model.
We will examine specific case studies in the beef, poultry and pig sectors to highlight the animal welfare, health and environmental impacts of intensive practices on farms.
We will also talk to health experts and scientists to get an insight into the potential for infectious disease outbreaks related to the intensification of Irish agriculture.
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