In a ruling that will come as a relief to all those who like to have their nostrils filled the authentic smell of farm work when in the country, North Rhine-Westphalia’s highest administrative court ruled on Monday that bad smells are part-and-parcel of agriculture.
The ruling was made after neighbours in Kleve, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), complained about a farmer’s plans to extend his chicken hatches. The poultry’s poo, they argued would pollute their air.
The judges had discussed whether there should be an upper limit on just how bad the countryside can smell.
At first an administrative court in Düsseldorf came down on the side of the plaintiffs, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
But the senior court was having none of it. While stopping short of accusing the plaintiffs of muckraking, they argued that the countryside is the countryside and people there are already used to the smell of dung – or had better get used to it fast.
The decision was a so-called Grundsatzurteil – a ruling which establishes a judicial principle.
The judges argued that the plaintiffs were themselves farmers or at least had been and in this respect had done their own share of muck shoveling in the past. They said that in places where bad smells are a fact of life, stronger and longer lasting smells are something which inhabitants should be able to cope with.
In this regard they distinguished between farming areas, where the inhabitants have built a certain tolerance for bad odours, as opposed to villages and larger settlements.
A spokesperson for the Farmers Association for Kleve told The Local that complaints over the stink from farms is an “everyday problem” in North Rhine Westphalia.
“What is unusual, although not unheard of, is that the argument is between farmers,” the spokesperson said.
He declined however to go into the details of the conflict between the farmers in this case.
“Every fifth German lives in NRW and there are 35,000 farms here so there are always problems because villages lie so close to pig sties and other livestock,” he said
But he rejected the idea that NRW is a state with an odour problem.
“Whether it stinks or not here has nothing to do with the debate. There are very clear guidelines and the court ruled in favour of the extension of the farm,” he said.