A look at the work of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, or CPRE

For anyone who is unfamiliar with CPRE, it’s the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and the organisation has been campaigning since 1926. Its aim is to minimise the impact of urban growth on the English countryside and to protect the environmental, social and economic assets that it represents.

One of those assets, they believe, is tranquility – an esoteric sort of quality that involves such factors as noise, billboards, garish lighting and traffic, amongst others. CPRE is now campaigning for the interests of UK dairy farmers, specifically the smaller ones. One of their concerns is the consolidation of milk production into a few large, specialised indoor operations, which could have dire consequences for many of the UK’s small farms.

While recognising that not every dairy operation can have extensive free-range grazing as its base, CPRE says that the ‘mega-dairies’ will put many small farms out of business. That in turn will have a negative impact on local economies and on the environment, not to mention the loss of some of England’s most iconic and and attractive features – hedges, drystone walls and open green space in the form of pastures.

Other consequences attached to large, intensive indoor dairy operations include noise and light pollution due to the 24-hour schedule and the number and size of the buildings needed, increased traffic on the connecting roads and the loss of ‘tranquility’ that has historically been supplied by England’s pastoral landscapes.

CPRE also pointed out that the food supply could be at risk because the source is concentrated in high-density operations, subject to an epidemic disease or extreme weather conditions, for example. These huge dairies need an economical source of feed, which might mean planting surrounding arable land in maize or other feed crops, which means further loss of scenic countryside to heavily automated feed production.

Basically, mega-dairies would be suitable for the requirements of supermarkets with their centralised supply and distribution models, but CPRE feels they would seriously undermine the interests of smaller, localised dairies and the communities they serve.