GreenPeace denounces factory farms, but what is it?

Is France filled with “factory” breeding farms? The cartography published by Greenpeace this Tuesday, May 16 reports more than 3,000 factory farms on French territory. Very large farms that the NGO denounces because they “push the limits of the possible to the detriment of animal welfare and the protection of the planet”. Greenpeace thus points the finger at the industrialization of livestock farming and advocates a return to a local and more ecological model. But what is a factory farm? In fact, there is no official definition

To carry out its study, Greenpeace relied on environmental criteria, namely the pollution that slurry and the spreading of a farm can cause. Thus, for the NGO, a “factory farm” is determined by “a large number of animals raised on a farm which does not have sufficient land to produce their food and to spread slurry or manure without risk. that they produced.”


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As no data exists to date on these environmental risks, the organization has mapped the farms declared under the authorization scheme for installations classified for the protection of the environment (ICPE) These installations are subject to authorization due to the risks of water and air pollution (among others) that they generate. Thus, these are farms with more than 800 cattle for meat production, 400 cows for dairy production, 20,000 rabbits, 40,000 poultry or even 2,000 pigs. Clearly, for Sandy Olivar Calvo, Agriculture campaign manager at Greenpeace, “it’s the industrial logic that counts” to determine what a factory farm is. “At 40,000 poultry, can we still talk about ‘breeding?’ she asks. If these farms are criticized, it is also for ethical reasons: the concentration of animals in the same area raises questions of animal welfare. According to Reporterre, an average of two animals die on average each week at the thousand cows, a factory farm in the Somme.

Businessmen invest in agriculture

Market gardening and farming are also affected by this phenomenon, also called “giant farm”. Indeed, the trend is towards the enlargement of farms. According to data from Agreste, the statistics service of the Ministry of Agriculture, “large farms” increased their surface area from 120 to 139 hectares between 2010 and 2020. “Of all agricultural land sold, 70% are going to expand”, had lamented at the beginning of the year with Capital Tanguy Martin, in charge of advocacy within Terre de liens. The number of micro-farmers has fallen by 31%.

In addition to the concentration of animals, there is therefore a concentration of owners. The financial speculation of agricultural land also pushes businessmen to invest in agriculture, almost like in any business. This is the example of the same “farm of 1000 cows”, where the investor does not come from the agricultural world at all. And in these factory farms, it is difficult to get your cheese directly from the producer. The products are directly exported.

Finally, factory farm operators make extensive use of technology to rationalize their production. Everything can be done remotely thanks to cameras, sensors and drones. Pesticide needs are mapped, detectors alert on the level of stress of animals or their health. All of this allows antibiotics, food and temperature to be adjusted remotely.

Antoine Levesque for Capital


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