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Stop Killing our Rivers – what you’ve helped us achieve!

Stop Killing our Rivers – what you’ve helped us achieve!

We edge ever closer to 30,000 signatures on our petition which calls on UK governments to address the environmental destruction at home and overseas caused by our industrial poultry system. Thanks to every one of you for your amazing support.

A personal journey

The Stop Killing our Rivers campaign has been a personal journey for me. I had impassioned conversations a whole year ago with individuals working hard at the grassroots level to bring attention to the demise of the Wye. I visited the area and its beautiful river, filming with our amazing local heroes, hearing their stories, long and winding like the river itself. I did an interview for the ITV 10 o’clock news and had wakeful nights just before we launched, hoping I’d got my data crunching right! It’s been an interesting and fulfilling ride.

A human story

While Stop Killing our Rivers is primarily about chicken and rivers, it’s really a human story. Communities blighted by water and air pollution emitted from intensive poultry units. An industry controlled by hidden corporates who supply everything from the feed, which is destroying sensitive overseas environments through deforestation and highly hazardous pesticides, to the supply of chicks, removal of slaughter-weight chickens and the clearing out of all that waste.

It’s a story of manure. The removal of vast volumes of it produced in these units of tens of thousands of birds. Surely the right solution for its management is not to use a river catchment like the Wye to deal with the waste? For the river, as a designated Special Area of Conservation, should be subject to the highest levels of environmental protection in the country.

Yet, it is close to death from the impact of preventable pollution.

Communities in the Wye are rightly outraged at the impact of intensive chicken farming destroying their river. They never asked for this. Many of them came together at an event called Restore the River in Monmouth in February, the river running close by. There, among many speakers from all sides of the debate, I was privileged enough to receive what was described by Farming UK as the “warmest reaction of the evening” to my call for systems change.

For that is what we need.

We need systems change

We need to end the construction of intensive poultry units and reduce the number in existence. Remaining units should operate under a new permitting system applied at much lower population thresholds which include requirements for animal welfare and waste management.

We need a just transition for farmers to move out of this damaging industry. Many farmers are locked into a long-term financial commitment to a poultry unit on their land, with loans having been taken out as part of a contract with a chicken processor.

This transition must be carefully managed to protect producer livelihoods and prioritise animal welfare. It will require change across supply chains, shifts in diet and a fair deal for farmers and consumers.

We need fewer chickens in existing poultry units via implementation of the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of standards that retailers and food service operators can sign up to, committing them to sourcing chicken meat produced as a result of less intensive practices. This would include slower-growing birds, less waste and reduced reliance on products like soya that are grown in sensitive environments overseas.

We need to reduce overall production and consumption of meat, including chicken, with a shift towards ‘more and better’ plants. Industrial poultry must be phased out in schools and hospitals.

Parliamentary questions

More than 3,000 of you also wrote to your MP or parliamentary representative in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You asked them to support our campaign and ask questions in parliament. Thank you for such a fantastic response.

Now the UK General Election has been called, we are pausing campaign activity and look forward to picking it up again in July. Your letters have helped us identify where to focus our arguments with the best chance of success, going forward.

Welcome new members!

Many of you are new members, passionate about our rivers. Thank you for trusting us to take action in this area. Much of the focus on river pollution has rightly been on sewage, but it’s an intensive agricultural system, through its reliance on inputs and excessive waste, that poses the biggest threat to our rivers. Our campaign identified 10 other rivers in England and Wales at risk from an expanding poultry industry alone.

Thank you!

Our campaigns are a cross-departmental effort involving our policy, communications and citizen engagement teams. But they are also not possible without all the wonderful people who’ve signed our petition, shared our resources and so generously given their time and money.

Buoyed by your support, we will take forward our campaign in the coming months, working with government, farmers and communities to bring about the change we need to Stop Killing our Rivers.

And if you haven’t signed our petition already, there’s still time! Please simply click on the link below and add your name.