Last summer the organic farmers' group, the Soil Association, objected to an application from Midland Pig Producers (MPP) for an intensive pig farm for up to 25,000 animals in Foston, Derbyshire. They raised concerns in general terms about disease, antibiotic resistance and animal welfare in large herds.
The application to South Derbyshire district council was withdrawn after it was ruled that it needed to go to the County Council instread and MPP expect to reapply in the next few weeks.
However Carter-Ruck, London based layers representing MPP, are threatening libel proceedings following the objection from the Soil Association and have send a 'threatening' letter saying the objection is defamatory and should be withdrawn.
The Soil Association's policy director, Lord Melchett, commented that the letter has had a 'chilling effect'. He went on to say "Yours first thought is, these are incredibly rich and powerful people; we have no assets, we will have to back down, not because we think we are wrong but because we don't have the resources. It's taken a lot of time to feel we can risk standing up to them."
Apparently the letter, marked 'private and confidential, not for publication or broadcast' said that the Soil Association's objections should not be further disseminated and that to do so 'would risk incurring considerable liability'. A representative from Carter-Ruck told the association that it should instead withdraw its objection from the planning process and meet the company.