CAMPAGINERS shouldn't “endlessly blame” the pollution in the River Wye on chicken farmers, which “stinks of a vegan agenda”, according to an award-winning writer and livestock farmer.

Writing on UnHerd, a political and social commentary website, John Lewis-Stempel says that the Wye “is being murdered”, and that it is “indisputable” that phosphates arising from the many intensive poultry units (IPUs) in the river catchment are partly to blame.

“The expansion of IPUs in the Wye’s catchment area over the past five years is clearly a driver in phosphate pollution, but the phosphate overload in local soil is a legacy issue, dating back decades,” he says.

While farming has been “authoritatively” shown to be responsible for around two-thirds of the phosphate entering the river, “the major culprits” also include potato-growing, for which phosphate is added to the soil in the form of artificial fertilisers, Mr Lewis-Stepmel claims.

“It all goes into the river. With not a chicken in sight,” said the Herefordshire writer. “Simply pointing the finger at poultry farmers lets other culprits off the hook.

He accuses journalist and campaigner George Monbiot, who has done much to bring the issue to a national audience, of having an “anti-poultry agenda” which “is a diversion, not an answer”.

Mr Monbiot has previously said anglers and other river conservationists who continue to eat meat “occupy two different planets at once”.

“You absolutely can have your chicken and your Wye,” Mr Lewis-Stempel says. “Having your intensively-farmed, £3.50 chicken from Tesco and having your Wye is another matter.

“It’s not the chicken, it’s how you farm them.”

He explains that he grew up within a stone’s throw of the river south of Hereford, and learned to swim in it.

“Now I would not go into its waters wearing chest-waders.”