Legal claim launched against Avara Foods for river pollution

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The legal action alleges that Avara Foods has polluted the River Wye. Credit: Getty / acceleratorhams
The legal action alleges that Avara Foods has polluted the River Wye. Credit: Getty / acceleratorhams

Related tags Sustainability

A legal claim has been launched against Avara Foods alleging that the poultry supplier is polluting the River Wye and its surrounding area.

Law firm Leigh Day has brought the claim against Avara in a bid to compensate thousands of people living in the Wye catchment area who claim to have been affected by “major degradation”​ of the River Wye and its tributaries in recent years.

The claim alleges that Avara’s “industrial scale chicken farming” ​has caused a private and public nuisance to people living in a 4,000 square km area in Powys, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire

Leigh Day claims that it has evidence which shows that the operations of Avara have been the overwhelming cause of phosphorous pollution, which is damaging the River Wye.

The law firm has argued that Avara is responsible for the damage that has been caused and should clean up the River Wye and the surrounding land, as well as paying “hundreds of millions of pounds to people and businesses whose lives, livelihoods and enjoyment of the area has been impacted because of the effects of pollution”.

Commenting on the launch of the legal claim, Leigh Day partner Oliver Holland said: “We consider that the significant decline in the health of the River Wye over the last few years is clearly linked to the significant increase in intensive poultry farming in the main brought about by Avara Foods.

“The lives and livelihoods of those living in the River Wye area are being significantly impacted only to the benefit of Avara Foods, a subsidiary of US multinational Cargill Plc. This destruction of one the UK’s most beautiful natural areas cannot continue, which is why we are bringing this legal action.”

The claim is being supported by River Action. The charity’s chair and founder Charles Watson said that waste produced by Avara had “blighted communities across the region”.

“With a huge percentage of this industry controlled by Avara, it is entirely appropriate that the polluter must now be made to pay to clean up the mess we believe it has created and subsequently profited from,”​ added Watson.

“We therefore applaud this action being taken by Leigh Day to seek recompense for the pollution of this magnificent river.”

In response, a spokesperson for Avara told Food Manufacture: “This is a year-old, opportunistic attempt to profit from a serious environmental issue. It has no merit and is not supported by evidence or expert opinion.

“It ignores the long-standing use of phosphate-rich fertiliser by arable farms as well as the clear scientific data showing the issue of excess phosphorus considerably pre-dates the growth of poultry farms in the Wye catchment. We are confident that there is no case to defend but, if forced to do so, we would pursue Leigh Day to recover any costs we incur.”

In other news, a lawsuit filed against meat processing giant JBS in the US​ should serve as a “wake up call” for food and drink manufacturers when publishing environmental targets.

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