Looking back over my posts, one could be forgiven for thinking I’m obsessed with shit. Not just because it’s part of the title of this blog, but because I talk about it quite often. The thing is, our society is conditioned to think of excrement as waste – something to be flushed away or dumped out of site. The reality is that it is full of resources that could be put to good use.
An example of this profligate attitude to shit is happening in my backyard: I’m lucky enough to live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in North Devon’s UN Biosphere Reserve – but this means nothing to one notorious farmer (the one who tried to impose an 8,000 cow industrial farm on the people of Nocton, Lincolnshire, but who – thanks to the petitioning power of 38 Degrees – was stopped in his tracks). However, he did get past the planners in this AONB and has a farm of 1,000 cows (that never get outside to feel the sunshine on their backs), on what amounts to a factory farm just up the road from me.
Now, 1,000 cows produce a lot of shit – and the farm does not have the capacity to store the quanities of shit produced for more than six weeks, so every six weeks or so, massive tractors start spreading up to 80,000 gallons a day of this rank, foul-smelling stuff over the beautiful fields in this vicinity. The famer, Mr Willes, buys-up tracts of land just for this purpose. Whether the land is waterlogged or sodden from a previous application, out come the slurry-spreaders, trashing precious hedges and verges in their wake to dump this toxic brew once again. But he still can’t get rid of the stuff fast enough, so he has illegally excavated a massive slurry lagoon, right next to the south-west coastal footpath without planning permission.
Part of the problem is the sheer scale of the farm, but another issue is the linear concept of his operations: bring in foodstuffs for the cows, feed cows, extract milk (and calves), dump shit, ad infinitum. With some strategic investment, the slurry could be converted to methane and used to produce energy for the farm and even the tractors, reducing the carbon footprint of the Parkham Farms cheese that is the eventual product of this process. Thing is, it’s probably cheaper for him to dump the stuff and pay the fines…
Is this Ecocide? Could a local community ever bring him to book for these activities? Yes – if Polly Higgins has her way, and rightly so. But that local community would have to make a commitment to only eat organically produced dairy products in future, otherwise we’re all part of the problem.