by Larry Powell
|What the fuss is all about. A PinP photo.|
It became controversial when the citizens' group, Hogwatch Manitoba, brought a formal complaint in September to the Yellowhead council.
It alleged the owner, Wim Verbruggen, had built a larger barn than stated in his original application for a building permit, bypassing several regulations and bylaws in the process. Ruth Pryzner of Hogwatch says there should have been a public hearing and provincial technical review. Neither was held. She also questioned whether proper procedures have been taken to ensure adequate manure storage and water management. She called on the RM to take meaningful action, including possible closure.
Yellowhead Mayor Don Yanick told PinP, Verbruggen has since assured council the number of animals he intended to raise in a larger, approved building meets legal requirements. On the basis of the assurance, Mayor Yanick says it appears the owner "followed our rules" and that there was no need for a hearing. Nevertheless, he says council decided on Oct. 9th, to "definitely" find an "independent person" at taxpayers' expense and verify the actual number of pigs in the barns. At the time of this writing, however, that person had not yet been appointed.
Also, it may be tough to get that independent person into the barn, in the first place. Barn owners can invoke special "biosecurity" requirements, such as "showering in and showering out" to guard against the spread of disease. Whether the owner has the power to forbid entry altogether, is unclear. The Mayor believes the inspection could depend on whether Verbruggen even "allows us in."
Pryzner says regulation must determine the most number of animals that an be housed in the original barns ("iso-wean" operations which have been there for years) and the addition. She adds, "If a disease outbreak occurred and all animals removed, the building capacity remains the same." The manure storage permit the province issued in 2001 for that original operation is proof that barn capacity must guide regulatory decision-making, not animals present at any given time.
Meanwhile, Yanick is denying yesterday's headline story in the local newspaper, Crossroads This Week," (see story, below). It reads, "Hogbarn Found to be Legal." First of all, he says, Council will not be declaring the operation "legal," even if an inspection clears the owner. (It will simply be allowed to proceed.) So, the bottom line is, the matter is still pending and will be discussed again at the next council meeting on Oct. 23rd.
Despite the fact this whole issue is not yet resolved, the newspaper describes the Hogwatch allegations as "unwarranted swipes against a family farming operation."
"In Hogs We Trust."
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.