Some 200 farmers gathered in the eastern German state at the Helfta Abbey in Eisleben on Friday to draw attention to their plight during meetings of German agriculture officials. Media reports said they intentionally disposed of some 14,000 litres of milk at the site.
“They dumped the milk in front of the abbey where it flowed through the drainage system into the pond,” police spokesperson Siegfried Koch in the nearby city of Halle told The Local. “By Saturday evening it was clear there was a problem.”
According to Koch, the fire brigade and other municipal workers tried to save the fish by removing them – but of the 1.5 tonnes they caught, two-thirds in the pond at the picturesque medieval Cistercian abbey had already died. The fish included goldfish, koi and pike.
“The entire pond had to be pumped out and now it will have to be cleaned,” he said. “It's a tonne of dead fish and it likely smells like it too.”
Public prosecutors are investigating the farmers for negligent water pollution, he added.
On Friday the state agriculture ministers encouraged more support for dairy farmers from the European Union, saying EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel's plan to give them a one-off payment and have countries buy up excess milk insufficient.
According to the National Union of Farmers (DBV), dairy farmers earn between €0.20 and €0.27 per litre of milk, but need twice as much to cover their costs.
The protest in Eisleben was part of a series of protests across Germany last week where more than 100,000 litres of milk were spilled onto fields and down gutters.
Germany's 90,000 dairy farmers have been fighting for more than a year – staging delivery boycotts, strikes and large demonstrations – to gain recognition for their situation.