Thursday, September 27, 2018

Orca 'apocalypse': half of killer whales doomed to die from pollution

The Guardian

Banned PCB chemicals are still severely harming the animals - but the Arctic could be a refuge. More here.
An orca breaches. Photo by H. Zell.

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."
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. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

For the First Time, Scientists Prove Human Activity Is the Top Cause of Warming Antarctic Waters...

Mother Jones
...and not regular temperature variations or responses to natural climate change. More here.
Mt. Herschel, Antarctica, with a penguin colony in the foreground, 2006.
Photo by Andrew Mandemaker.

Busted! Citizens' group exposes Illegal hog operation in Manitoba. Few consequences likely for barn owner.(Video)

Read an alternative version here. Also....

"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Monday, September 24, 2018

For years, the main culprit in bee decline has been the "neonics," a family of insecticides. Now, another suspect has been added to the list - an herbicide - Roundup!

More here.
Science X

A honeybee colony in Manitoba. A PinP photo.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Florence Flooding Kills 5,500 Pigs, 3.4 Million Chickens in the Carolinas

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that the historic flooding from Florence has killed about 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs. More here.

Friday, September 21, 2018

World's Largest River Floods Five Times More Often Than It Used to


Extreme floods have become more frequent in the Amazon Basin in just the last two to three decades, according to a new study. More here.

Amazon River, Western Para Province, Brazil June 1996. This image shows the flooded condition of a small section of the Amazon River,including the jungle towns of Obidos and Oriximina. The sun’s reflection off of the muddy looking river water, called sun glint or sunglitter, helps to identify land-water boundaries in this section of the Amazon River which is roughly midway between Manaus and the Amazon River Delta. By comparing this image to a detailed map of the area it is obvious that the river is flooding in the low lying areas that are adjacent to the floodplain of the main channel of the river. Large areas south of the main channel of the Amazon River are covered by standing water. Patches of cleared land can be identified within the densely vegetated terrain along the northeast side of the Amazon River. The main channel of the Rio Trombetas can be traced southeastward from the right edge of the picture until the river merges with the Amazon just west of the small jungle town of Obidos. Satellite image by NASA.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Million$ more in government help for Manitoba's high-maintenance hog sector.

by Larry Powell

Manitoba's Premier, Brian Pallister has announced another assistance package to Hylife Foods of more than $11 m over the next several year. (HyLife is now Canada's biggest pork processor.) Some $9.5m will come from the province, the rest from Ottawa. It will help the company pay for a pricey expansion of its killing plant in Neepawa and a new feed mill in the southwest.

Last November, I warned in a blog-post here, that Manitoba taxpayers had better be prepared to "dig deeper." Why? Because Pallister's Conservatives had just begun to deregulate this province's corporate hog sector, so it could expand. And, expand, it has! Countless new barns are going up, so that millions more animals can be raised and slaughtered here: And all with fewer regulations than ever to control pollution, disease or catastrophic barn fires. 

Given past history, my article reasoned, more "corporate welfare" was surely in the wind.

It documented at least half-a-billion dollars in aid that had already gone to the industry, nationwide, from federal and provincial treasuries over the previous decade. These included a so-called "loan" of $10 m to HyLife Foods. Turns out, it may not have been a "loan" after all! The agreement allows the Minister, at the stroke of a pen, to release HyLife from its obligation to pay that money back. (No one really knows if that is what will happen. At least, not yet.)
 Part of HyLife's executive team, whose corporation you 
                                      and I continue to"prop up" with our tax dollars.                                           A HyLife photo.

In the ensuing ten months, there have been several more announcements of aid totalling millions, possibly billions, to the agriculture sector, overall. While breakdowns are not always announced, the hog industry has received public funding for such things as "research" as has the "meat processing" sector (usually code for the two big swine killing plants in the province, operated by HyLife and Maple Leaf Foods)

Despite all of this, the hog sector's demands on our public treasuries are becoming even more shrill and frequent of late. It has even issued a formal call for more public assistanc to bail it out of its economic squeeze posed by the threat of a trade war with the States. Apparently, Canadian hog prices have already tanked in the midst of the dispute. 

The industry is also sounding more alarms recently over the apparently real possibility that more virulent and deadly hog disease, now spreading elsewhere around the world, may invade North America. How long do you think it will be before a similar calls goes out for public dollars to counter this threat? 

It's been said that, without the kind of public "largesse" that now flows regularly to the industry, and the fact it does not pay for any of the "external costs" it inflicts on public health and the environment, it would probably go broke in short order!

Before I pat myself on the back too much for being "prophetic," boy, was I was wrong about one thing! In my November story, I said the next rollout of "corporate welfare" would possibly be in about a year. 

If I had been writing with a quill pen, it pretty much happened (allowing for a bit of poetic license) "before the ink was dry!" 


"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A call to protect much more land and sea from human encroachment

Science X 
Riding Mtn. Nat'l. Park - Manitoba, Canada. A PinP photo.
A new paper in the journal Science strongly supports establishment of many more land and sea areas as protected sites. Failure to do so, the editorial warns, chillingly, could spell doom for many species, including our own! More here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

"You ain't seen nothing yet!" Environmentalists fear Hurricane Florence will again flood Carolinas' many livestock operations, bringing catastrophic pollution.

by Larry Powell
Almost 750 thousand turkeys (shown here) and some 100 thousand hogs,
were lost in catastrophic flooding in North Carolina during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. 
Dave Gatley FEMA
It's an all-too-familiar story.

Given past history, chances are good that Florence will once again turn waterways in the Carolinas - home to hundreds of huge swine and poultry barns and waste lagoons, into a toxic mess of feces, urine and animal remains. It happened when Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999 and Mathew stormed in in 2016.  Even tho they were smaller storms than Florence is now, Mathew and Floyd left their marks, too. According to "The New Food Economy," 14 lagoons flooded and millions of animals died during Mathew. Environmental groups such as The Waterkeeper Alliance, documented what they called "fields of filth" left behind, as seen here. Floyd's toll was also devastating. (See photo, above.)

North Carolina's livestock produce more than 90 billion kilograms of "wet waste" annually.

Despite these seemingly catastrophic scenarios, the hog industry is still putting on a brave, if not contradictory face. The North Carolina Pork Council maintains that waste lagoons are rarely "overtopped" in floods because they are intentionally built on high ground, with berms protecting them. And, it adds, many people just "don't understand this."
This picture, posted on the Council's own website, seems to show
neither berms nor high ground!

Please also read:
"In Hogs We Trust," a critique of Manitoba's runaway pork industry.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

New report: over half the world's raptors have declining populations

A ferruginous? hawk in Manitoba, Canada.
A PinP photo.

We interview our Chief Scientist, Stuart Butchart, about a newly published paper: State of the World’s Raptors: What threats this iconic group of birds face, and what we can do to help. More here.

Another hurricane is about to batter our coast. Trump is complicit.

The Washington Post
Hurricane Florence. A NASA photo.
With depressingly ironic timing, the Trump administration has recently announced a plan to roll back federal rules on methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component in natural gas. When it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. More here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Global hunger continues to rise, new UN report says

World Food Programme
A woman receives food rations at a refugee camp in Kenya. Kate Holt/AusAID

Progress made in the past decade has been reversed, with climate extremes such as droughts and floods identified as a main cause. More here.

A Season of Smoke

Monday, September 10, 2018

ASF - a deadly hog disease - has now been confirmed on Romania’s largest pig farm: 140,000 pigs culled

The virus was confirmed on the farm, which consists of 3 adjacent properties in the southern county of Braila, Romania after water samples were sent to the authorities. Story here.
In Hogs We Trust - a critique of Manitoba's runaway hog industry.
Part 111 - From Malaysia to Manitoba - the global magnitude of livestock diseases.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Wildfires make their own weather, and that matters for fire management

A wildfire on the Ashcroft reserve in B.C, 2017. Shawn Cahill.
New prediction tools zero in on how blazes throw embers and make weather that fans the flames. Story here.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

No record yields for potatoes on the Canadian Prairies this year!

Western Producer
A potato harvester at work in southern Manitoba. A PinP photo.
The hot, dry weather Western Canada experienced this summer, is blamed. Story here.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

One of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded was set off three years ago by a melting glacier

The Washington Post
A rare and extreme tsunami ripped across an Alaskan fjord three years ago after 180 million tons of mountain rock fell into the water, driving a devastating wave that stripped shorelines of trees and reached heights greater than 600 feet, a large team of scientists documented on Thursday. The October 2015 cataclysm in Taan Fiord in southeastern Alaska appears to have been the fourth-highest tsunami recorded in the past century, and its origins — linked to the retreat of a glacier — suggest that it’s the kind of event we may see more often because of a warming climate.The new study even bluntly calls it a “hazard occasioned by climate change.” Story here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Drug-resistant microbes could threaten future global economy, low income countries in particular

Journal Club
A microbiologist examines the growth of a bacterial culture. 
A U.S. Food & Drug Administration photo. 
Antimicrobial resistance is not only a major public health threat, but also an economic one, according to researchers at The World Bank. Their new study, published in the journal World Development, suggests that an increase in drug-resistant microbes could cause millions more people to fall into extreme poverty within the next few decades. “Nobody has estimated the poverty effects before,” says study author Karen Thierfelder, an economics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and consultant for The World Bank. “We’d like to make more people aware of the problem.” More here.

Also Read: "In Hogs We Trust."  

A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Worries Deepen That Another Deadly Hog Disease May Arrive in Canada

African Swine Fever in China Prompts Call for Review of Biosecurity on Canadian Farms

African Swine Fever has now been reported over a vast area in China. 
A PinP photo.
In light of this, Manitoba Pork is encouraging pork producers to reevaluate biosecurity. 
The virus affects pigs of all ages causing high mortality and, while it doesn't affect humans and isn't considered a food safety risk, it is highly transmissible, it is trade limiting and it is federally reportable.
 Jenelle Hamblin, the Manager of Swine Health Programs with Manitoba Pork, says the world is a smaller place than it once was with people and products moving in short amounts of time for many reasons.
Clip-Jenelle Hamblin-Manitoba Pork:
 As a sector we need to be normally aware of the people that are coming onto our premises and where they've been prior to coming but, in the case such as this, it's important to consider any overseas travel that may have occurred.
African swine fever has been found to live in products for many months therefore we also have to keep in mind any pork products that could potentially be coming into North America.
It would be a really good idea to review your biosecurity protocols with your veterinarian and your staff, talking about overseas travel of anyone coming onto your farm including staff, family members, any contracted workers or even going as far as considering exchange students if that's something your family participates in.
As well the food from other parts of the world.
Things that we could do to prevent bringing anything onto our premises is not bringing back food from overseas or not accepting gifts of food from overseas or from people coming from overseas and also never bringing any types of food scraps into your barn.
Also you could take a look at your feed ingredients and where they are originally being sourced from.
Lastly keeping on top of the developments that are happing in China in regards to African Swine Fever and being aware of what's happening in the sector.
Hamblin acknowledges containing the virus in China will be a challenge due to the varying range of biosecurity in place.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork.
Please also read: 

Monday, September 3, 2018

'It’s not if, it’s when': the deadly pig disease spreading around the world

The Guardian
Swine fever has made its way into China, home to half the world’s pigs. Farmers in Estonia are already counting the cost. Story here.
The images below show piglets with "PED," another deadly disease of hogs which has been 
rampant in North America (& Manitoba) in recent years. Photos by Manitoba Pork.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ is the largest ever measured

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
This NASA image shows the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
The dead zone is now approaching an area the size of Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg! More here.

Diesel vehicles in oil sands operations contribute to regional pollution

EurekAlert Wildfires, cigarette smoking and vehicles all emit a potentially harmful compound called isocyanic acid. The substance has been l...