This month has seen The Ecologist cover some highly current and emotive stories. With the planning application for the UK’s biggest dairy at Nocton in Lincolnshire expected to be submitted imminently, the spectre of US-style ‘mega-dairy’ farms looms large, according to animal welfare campaigners. They are worried about the impact of housing 8000 cows in a single intensive facility; particularly what it will mean for the wellbeing of the animals involved. Local residents are concerned about the impacts of the farm on their lives and the immediate environment.
Those behind the development argue that large, modern dairy facilities such as that proposed at Nocton offer a sensible, environmentally friendly and economically viable way of doing business in the 21st Century; big doesn’t necessarily mean bad. They also accuse activists, and the media, of making inaccurate claims and prejudging the proposal before the full facts are presented. The latter is not entirely true – the original planning application was withdrawn after concerns were raised about the proposal’s environmental credentials. But they are right to insist that the debate is based on hard facts.
That’s why The Ecologist travelled to the US to see for itself what impacts ‘mega-dairies’ have had in California. Whilst there are differences between the US model and the Nocton proposal the broad principals are the same. You can read for yourself what Jim Wickens found – and watch our exclusive film on the website – before drawing your own conclusions.
As part of our special report into the subject – the first of many new and in-depth examinations of topical issues – we also uncovered how those behind Nocton have themselves expressed doubts about meeting their own standards and targets, and spoke to a wide range of farmers to assess their views on this bubbling controversy.
Staying in the UK, Dan Box reports on an innovative conservation model being piloted around the Stiperstones in Shropshire – one which has land managers, conservationists and policy makers watching closely, particularly as the coalition government faces crucial decisions about the future of the countryside.
This month we also have two reports from Africa. Thembi Mutch examines carbon trading in Tanzania, and Dawn Starin reports on the bush-meat trade in Guinea-Bissau. Her remarkable dispatch – which in some ways raises more questions than it answers – is accompanied by what are probably the most graphic images The Ecologist has ever carried. You can see a selection here and a full gallery is online. They don’t make for pleasant viewing but do shine a rare light on a seldom reported issue from a largely forgotten part of the globe.
That’s something we’ll be doing a lot more of in the coming weeks and months. Building on the excellent work done by my predecessor Mark Anslow, I hope to continue the magazine’s long tradition of breaking new ground and setting the agenda, both in the stories we cover and in how we cover them…