At 6am this morning (Monday 27th March), Extinction Rebellion activists returned to Avara’s Allensmore feed mill in Hereford, to block the entrance with a 10-foot-tall bamboo structure and a banner which read: CARGILL & AVARA KILLING THE RIVER WYE. 

The group say they had little alternative but to escalate their protest since closing the site down in July last year[1], after new evidence surfaced in January, which proves that since the 1980s Cargill, Avara’s parent company, have known the damaging effect phosphates would have on the River Wye’s ecosystem.

A court judgement[2] in the USA, found Cargill guilty of knowingly killing the ecosystem of the River Illinois by polluting it with chicken excrement from intensive farming. Although Cargill were ordered to make financial reparations, they have, to date, failed to present the court with a viable plan to do so.

Today, Extinction Rebellion activists are demanding that Avara-Cargill commits to financial reparations here in the UK, to restore the River Wye to its natural state, and that they cease building or expanding intensive poultry units of any description within the Wye catchment area. Last year Avara’s parent company Cargill reported profits of almost $5 billion, the biggest in its 157-year history so they can certainly afford to restore the Wye.

“It is now abundantly clear that Avara knowingly and deliberately polluted the Wye, using our beloved river as a sewer to maximise their profits.”says David Gillam, from Peterchurch “Avara’s parent company Cargill is rightly known as ‘the worst company in the world’ for their long record of environmental destruction across the globe. Avara-Cargill have known for years that they are destroying the Wye and have pretended otherwise.It is time that Avara committed to paying to restore the Wye as a matter of urgency. The familiar principle of ‘the polluter pays’ should apply here just as it does in the USA.”

Furthermore, activists say that Avara-Cargill should make sure that none of their chicken manure ever leaches into the river as there are already 3000 tonnes of excess phosphorus in the Wye Valley, which will take years to be used up. The only way to do this is by stopping spreading any manure anywhere in the Wye catchment. Avara-Cargill’s current promise of a huge anaerobic digester is entirely unproven technology that doesn’t provide any solution to the phosphate problem.

Lou Wombacher-Hadden from Herefordshire, one of the activists blocking the site entrance today said: “I’m here because I’m really concerned about the devastating effect Avara-Cargill’s inaction will have on tourism and employment in the area. The RSPB says that the economic value of the River Wye to tourism and employment in the area was estimated at £385 million in 2018 – that’s huge! The river provides around 7,700 jobs, so we can’t just ignore the impact this environmental disaster will have on local people.”

Activists point out that people are now queuing up to sue chicken producers. Leigh Day Solicitors say that people whose property lies within the River Wye catchment area should get in touch to discuss bringing a civil claim against companies involved in the production of poultry in the area as landowners, wildlife groups, companies and sports clubs should have the right to use the water in its natural state.