Large-scale pig farming could ruin the beautiful scenery near where Game Of Thrones was filmed, one of the actors has said.
Jerome Flynn plays Ser Bronn of the Blackwater in the hugely successful HBO fantasy series which was partly shot at dramatic locations around Northern Ireland.
Flynn said: “It’s a majestic, beautiful land which, as soon as you bring in a factory farm, is completely ruined. It’s polluted.
“People won’t want to walk there anymore. It becomes dangerous for children to play there. Let’s subsidise the local farmers who want to ethically rear their animals and want to give them a life that’s worth living, the free life that they deserve.
“Let’s support them rather than pouring money into an industry which is threatening the whole balance of the ecosystem.”
The Northern Ireland Audit Office has begun an investigation into payments which subsidise owners of anaerobic digester (AD) plants which create electricity from animal waste. Last year that BBC revealed that AD subsidies here are more valuable than in the rest of the UK.
Lobby group Farms Not Factories is concerned the green scheme aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels has encouraged the construction of large-scale farms.
It calls them “pig factories” in Northern Ireland and suggested 14 such facilities were seeking planning permission.
Digesters require significant amounts of animal waste to run. They use the organic material to create a biogas like methane, which is then converted to electricity. Payments to companies which generate electricity from renewables like biogas come from a levy on electricity bills.
Tracy Worcester, director of the Farms Not Factories campaign group, said: “We can use the power of our purse to only buy from real farms, not animal factories.
“When buying pork, look for the high welfare labels Outdoor Bred, RSPCA Assured, Free Range or best of all Organic. When waste is produced by a moderate number of animals on a farm, it is not pollution but a fertiliser.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said there was no evidence the introduction of AD plants was driving growth in pig farming. UFU deputy-president Victor Chestnutt said: “Northern Ireland prides itself on its small family farming structure.”
He said it was “not accurate that Northern Ireland AD plants receive four times as much subsidy as those in GB” because “the two subsidy systems are set up differently and cannot be compared like-for-like”.