Thursday, 27 September 2018

Busted! A citizens' group exposes an illegal hog operation in southwestern Manitoba. (An illustrated text version.)

By Larry Powell

Hogwatch Manitoba says a large pig barn in the RM of Yellowhead in the southwest, has been operating illegally  since last year.
This is the barn in question, 5k east of the village of Strathclair.
Photo by Larry Powell.
Ruth Pryzer presented Hogwatch’s case to the Yellowhead council 
this week. She claimed the barn owner, Wim Verbruggen, misled 
the local government when he applied for a building permit early 
last year.

She says the barn he built was three thousand square feet bigger than he said it would be. And it houses many more animals than 
the fewer than 300 he claimed it would. The Planning Act which existed at the time, required that a barn such as the one now up 
and running, have both a “conditional use” hearing and a technical review. 

Neither of these actually took place. 

The lack of a hearing meant there was no chance for anyone in the area to express concerns or perhaps of even finding out about it, beforehand! No technical review meant a group of experts had no chance of examining the project, in detail.

The Hogwatch submission states, “The applicant (Verbruggen) 
had given the RM verbal assurances that the expansion would not require an application for a conditional use permit. Ms. Gapka 
(the RM’s CAO)  said, because the Municipality operates on ‘the honour system and did not have the staffing resources and 
expertise to verify the accuracy of the information supplied by the applicant, the applicant was taken at his word.”

Pryzner believes that honour system is, therefore, “Obviously not working.” And that the violations have been “so egregious, the 
barn should be shut down.”

She also worries that, because the owner has not applied to expand the barn’s manure storage capacity, either, the only way he’ll be able to get rid of the excess is to spread it on fields in the winter. That practice was illegal at the time and remains illegal today (although the Pallister government has since made it easier to, at 
the stroke of the Minister's pen, make it legal.  

Liquid hog waste (slurry) spread on frozen fields has a greater chance of running off  and polluting waterways than it does when spread on unfrozen soil. 

The Mayor of the RM, Don Yanick, told Planet in Peril, he could find no mistakes in the Hogwatch submission. He said it had probably been an “oversight” that no hearing had been held. This was possibly due, he said, to the RM’s lack of experience when dealing with such large building projects. He promised the council would review the information and decide what to do.

But he is obviously not keen on Pryzner's suggestion that the barn be shut down. “Any business in the community," he explained, 
"we like to work with them to solve the issues that they have. And, if they can’t be solved, then we have a decision to make.”

Verbruggen was not at the council meeting. And I have not been able to reach him for comment. However, he told the Brandon Sun, he had done nothing wrong.

He is now in the process of building another barn in a nearby municipality.

Hogwatch Manitoba is made up of farmers, environmentalists and animal rights activists. It promotes an industry that is "ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable."
                            
                            -30-
Watch the video version of this story here.  

The above story, all too often represents the reality of mega-hog production. 

Ads like this, however, are how the industry "spins" its message 
into one of sweetness and love. 

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