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Cargill Plc included in river Wye pollution allegations

Cargill Plc included in river Wye pollution allegations


A multi-million pound legal claim expands to hold Cargill Plc accountable for River Wye pollution alongside Avara Foods.

A  legal claim, potentially worth hundreds of millions, has taken a significant turn as it expands its scope to include US multinational food producer Cargill Plc in addition to its subsidiary, Avara Foods Ltd. The claim, initiated in March 2024 by law firm Leigh Day, aims to seek compensation for thousands affected by pollution in the River Wye and its tributaries.

The claim is being led by Leigh Day partner Oliver Holland, who said: “We intend to include Cargill plc, the parent company of Avara Foods, in this legal action because we believe they should also bear responsibility for bringing phosphorus rich soy into the UK and into the Wye Catchment area. They have done this despite knowing that such action will cause environmental devastation to the River Wye having been found liable for the same practice in the US courts – instead of learning from their past mistakes they are simply replicating the same environmental damage in the UK that they have been liable for in the US and should be held equally responsible for their actions as Avara.”

Initially targeting Avara Foods Ltd, the claim has now grown to encompass its parent company, Cargill Plc, based on mounting evidence suggesting its involvement in the pollution of the River Wye catchment area. The focus of the legal action revolves around the alleged environmental repercussions of industrial-scale chicken farming, particularly the excess phosphorous that contributes significantly to the pollution of the Wye and its tributaries.

Cargill Plc, through its subsidiary Avara Foods Ltd, plays a crucial role in the supply chain of chicken farming in the UK. By importing soybeans to be processed at its Liverpool Soy Crush and Refinery, Cargill provides a major component of the phosphorous-rich chicken feed utilized by farms contracted by Avara Foods Ltd. The excess phosphorous in chicken manure, stemming from this feed, is cited as a primary cause of the pollution in the River Wye.

Leigh Day alleges that Cargill Plc's knowledge of the environmental risks associated with intensive poultry farming, as evidenced by similar claims in the US, should render them accountable for the pollution in the UK. Notably, in 2023, a court ruling in Oklahoma found Cargill Inc. liable for polluting the Illinois River through similar practices.

The legal claim asserts that despite knowing the environmental consequences, both Avara Foods Ltd and Cargill Plc continued their operations, thus exacerbating pollution in the River Wye and its tributaries. It emphasizes that Avara Foods Ltd began its operations in the Wye in 2018, long after Cargill Plc was aware of the risks associated with intensive poultry rearing.

Furthermore, the claim highlights the disparity in bird concentration per square meter of land draining into the River Wye compared to the River Illinois, underscoring the severity of the pollution in the Wye catchment area.

In response, Avara Foods Ltd has expressed its commitment to addressing the issue of poultry manure originating from its supply chain but asserts that reversing the decline of the River Wye requires collective effort. However, Leigh Day maintains that the impact of industrial chicken farming remains the primary cause of degradation in the River Wye.

Leigh Day is currently inviting more claimants to join the legal action, which is scheduled to be filed at the High Court in London later this year. Partner Oliver Holland, leading the claim, asserts that both Avara Foods Ltd and Cargill Plc should be held accountable for their actions, given their knowledge of the environmental consequences.

The legal battle surrounding the pollution of the River Wye underscores the growing importance of corporate accountability in safeguarding the environment and public health. As the case unfolds, it may set a precedent for holding multinational corporations responsible for their role in environmental degradation worldwide.