2022-07-06

BELFAST - As part of a cross-border project to investigate the poultry industry on the island of Ireland, the investigative team from The Detail, Noteworthy and The Guardian took a deep dive into cross-border litter trade and the environmental impacts from the industry as it expands in line with State policy.

The findings reveal that a major investigation involving multiple authorities is underway into potential fraud in planning applications for poultry farms in Northern Ireland after authorities in the Republic found falsified or altered litter letters were used to support over 20 planning applications.
 
The investigation also found cases of illegal dumping on poultry litter in Northern Ireland, and highlights concerns from authorities in the Republic that there is no robust monitoring and enforcement regime to verify where poultry litter is really going, with potentially serious environmental and human health consequences. 
 
The investigation also examined the impacts of poultry farming on nature, with an explosion in the number of poultry farms close to protected nature reserves along the border region in recent years.
 
The cross-border investigation reveals that poultry farms in Northern Ireland continue to be approved close to protected nature areas where ammonia emissions are already well above dangerous levels, while farms in the Republic are being approved despite a lack of concrete data on the true extent of the ammonia impact on protected areas.
 
The team analysed various planning and enforcement files, spoke with environmental scientists, planning experts, and environmental groups, and sent over 75 access to information requests to chart the serious issues raised.

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As part of a cross-border project to investigate the poultry industry on the island of Ireland, Noteworthy, together with The Detail and The Guardian, analysed the potential disease impact from poultry litter as the industry continues to expand in line with State policy. 
 
Poultry manure is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, & potassium and can act as a powerful fertiliser, used for compost in the mushroom industry and landspreading on tillage and vegetable farms to encourage crop growth. 
 
However, there is a downside to the production of such quantities of litter that, if poorly managed, can cause environmental impacts and human health risks, such as water, air and soil pollution, spread of antimicrobial residues and pathogens such as botulism.
 
According to the findings of a cross-border team, 16 farms were inspected between 2011 and 2021 due to concerns over potential breaches of the codes of good practice for poultry litter, with a total of 80 cows dying as a result of botulism linked to the landspreading of poultry litter.
 

Team members

Luke Butterly

Luke Butterly is a freelance investigative journalist in Belfast. 

Niall Sargent

Niall is an award-winning multimedia investigative reporter.

Rory Winters

Rory Winters is a reporter with The Detail, an investigative news and current affairs website based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Ella McSweeny

Ella McSweeney is a journalist and reporter based in Ireland.

Tommy Greene

Tommy Greene is a freelance journalist. He has reported for a number of years in Spain, Ireland and Britain. 

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