Tesco supplier Avara sued for allegedly polluting River Wye

Major UK food producer Avara Foods – which supplies the UK’s largest supermarket Tesco – among others is being sued for allegedly polluting the River Wye.

If the case is successful, thousands of people living in the area could share hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation.

Law firm Leigh Day is bringing a claim against Avara Foods Limited, one of the UK’s biggest food producers and Tesco’s main chicken supplier.

The claim alleges that industrial-scale chicken farming in Hertfordshire and the Welsh border suppling Avara is polluting the waterway and surrounding land. It is estimated that up to 23 million birds are being produced in the River Wye catchment area at any one time.

Charles Watson, River Action chair, said: “With around a quarter of the country’s chickens now being reared in the catchment of the River Wye, the waste emitting from this totally unsustainable concentration of poultry production has 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.”


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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.”

Avara said all manure from its suppliers had been taken away from the river and used elsewhere in the UK. It told the BBC it was confident there was no case to defend.

A spokesperson for Avara said: “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.”

Earlier this month, Tesco and the WWF both denied that a report highlighting how intensive chicken production was ravaging the River Wye has been pulled as a result of their ongoing partnership.

Leigh Day is the law firm representing Chris Packham who been given permission for a judicial review in the High Court challenging the government’s decision to U-turn on some of its green polices.

Nature and the environmentSocial sustainability

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