Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Strathclair hog barn operator not in compliance with laws - Hogwatch Manitoba

Dear Editor,

Politics, not law, are driving Yellowhead Council’s response to 
Hog Watch Manitoba’s revelations about a hog barn expansion 
near Strathclair.  

(See B.G. story, here.)

Claims that its “investigation” reveals the operator was “found to 
be in compliance with laws and regulations” as reported in the 
October 24 Brandon Sun are false.

Council’s informal plan to have taxpayers pay someone to count 
the Maple Leaf-owned pigs at this so-called family farm is a 
diversion designed to give the offender time to fix problems 
documented by Hog Watch. Counting pigs helps them evade their 
responsibility to regulate on the maximum number and type of pigs 
a barn can hold. 

Governments’ honour system has led to the approval of a new barn 
without making sure there is sufficient capacity to stor
manure.  Only after the barn was built, over a thousand pigs put in
 it this spring, Hog Watch sounded an alarm and municipal 
officials spoke to the operator, was an application made for a 
provincial manure storage expansion permit.

 The law is that any size of operation using earthen manure 
storages have at least 400 days storage capacity. This operator’s 
engineer October 5 letter to Council admits current storage 
capacity is only 253 days and an application for a provincial 
permit submitted only recently.  There was no mention if a water 
rights licence had been submitted or obtained since Hog Watch 

When the building application was made, the law required all 
expanding pig operations, big or small, to file manure management 
plans.  This provided some check on having enough suitable 
manure spread lands.  It is now obvious why the Pallister 
government eliminated this rule.  It makes it easier and cheaper for 
the hog industry to expand.  It exposes people to the effects of 
environmental and surface water nutrient pollution from the hog 

Council ignored their own Zoning By-Law regarding required 
spread lands. While the engineer’s manipulation of pig numbers 
down to 297 Animal Units (AUs) appears to justify the operator 
not having to go through a conditional use hearing and provincial 
technical review (triggered at 300 AUs), the zoning by-law clearly 
states any livestock operation producing over 75 animal units of 
manure has to “provide enough suitable land… to dispose of the 
manure in a fashion which will not pollute the land.”  Counting 
pigs can’t fix these violations of the law.  
Wim Verbruggen publicly asserted in the
 Sun that I, acting on 
behalf of Hog Watch is telling “lies, lies, lies.” The evidence 
speaks for itself. Just like evidence heard by Oakview Council 
from a local resident during the conditional use hearing on his 
2016 proposal for a 6000 head-capacity finisher operation that was 
rejected. The manure storage site selected and sanctioned by a 
different engineer, was shown to be illegal. A fact ignored by the 
Provincial Technical Review Committee.  Another provincial rule 
change now allows such manure storages to be built on such 
surface watercourses by simply calling them something else.

Governments’ job is to regulate the hog industry by putting the 
public interest first. The honour system, ignoring facts and the law 
while attempting to count pigs to give an offender time to become 
compliant after-the-fact is dangerous practice and sends a troubling 
message to the industry.  You can break the law and if you get 
caught, we’ll help fix it for you. This approach rewards 
lawbreakers, rather than prosecuting them and does nothing to 
protect people and the environment.

Ruth Pryzner
Hog Watch member

Living Planet Report 2018 - Bad News for the World’s Wildlife.

World Wildlife Fund

We are pushing our planet to the brink. Human activity—how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives—is taking an unprecedented toll on wildlife, wild places, and the natural resources we need to survive. On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018. Story here.

Carnage on our roads is surely a significant factor as well.

Maggots swarm over the carcass of an animal killed on the highway.

Roadkill litters a busy highway in Manitoba as the wheels of commerce
(and the carnage), keep on rolling. PinP photos.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Cry me a river: Low water levels causing chaos in Germany
A river boat in Cologne. CE photo, Uwe Aranas
A new island in Lake Constance. A river in Berlin flowing backward. Dead fish on the banks of lakes and ponds. Barges barely loaded so they don't run aground. More here.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Scientists, environmentalists brace for Brazil's right turn

Slash-and-burn forest clearing along the Xingu River in Brazil.
A NASA satellite photo.
Beset by economic woes and dissatisfied with the left-wing politicians in power for most of the past 15 years, Brazil appears poised to make a hard turn and elect a far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, as its next president. His rapid ascent has unnerved local researchers, who worry about the future of Brazilian science, the protection of the country's biodiversity, and its role in the global struggle against climate change. Bolsonaro has vowed to withdraw Brazil from the 2015 Paris agreement, which requires nations to reduce greenhouse emissions to combat climate change, and he plans to eliminate the Ministry of the Environment and fold its duties into the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

European parliament approves curbs on use of antibiotics on farm animals

Move is aimed at halting the spread of ‘superbugs’ resistant to medical treatment. Details here.

RELATED: Starting this December, Canadian farmers will need a prescription to obtain veterinary antibiotics for their livestock. According to a retired University of Guelph professor, John Prescott, the federal regulatory changes mean the agriculture industry will be required to play its part in reducing the use of antibiotics here and around the world. More here.

The owl, the mouse and the murrelet. How manmade climate change could be pushing species to the brink in ways rarely imagined.

by Larry Powell
A Scripp's murrelet chick (Synthliboramphus scrippsi). Humans hunted its cousin, 
the Great Auk, to extinction in the 18 hundreds. A U.S. Nat'l. Park Service photo.
A new study finds, complex changes in climate are threatening yet another species - this time a little diving seabird known as the Scripp's murralet (above). But this time, it isn't because of direct impacts  from severe weather events, as is often the case. Rather, it is how those events are interfering with traditional interactions between a predator, the barn owl (below) and its two main prey, the deer mouse and the murralet. The three species breed on the channel islands, off the coast of California. The study focused on Santa Barbara, the smallest.

Barn owl (Tyto alba). Photo by Peter K. Burian.
In-depth research by two American and two Canadian scientists, documents a fascinating but insidious train of events that could  be leading to the little seabird's demise. During prolonged, torrential rainfalls, vegetation on the island flourishes, providing plenty of food for island populations such as the deer mouse (below). This is quickly followed by a spike in barn owl numbers, the mouse's main predator. But when droughts set in, mice populations plummet. Apparently as a survival instinct, the owl then turns to the murralet. Estimates are that, at such times, the owls consume 15 times more murralet's than before. So, in this seemingly unjust scenario, when the mice diminish, it's the murralet, not the owl, which seems to pay the higher price.

Deer mouse. Peromyscus maniculatus.
Photo by Gregory "Siobirdr" Smith.

The Scripp's murralet is listed as "vulnerable" with, at most, 650 breeding pairs left on the island. Their numbers are believed to be declining and the scientists fear, because of this so-called  "hyperpredation," they may be headed for extinction.

But this disturbing prognosis may not be confined to Santa Barbara. Many ecosystems share the same set of conditions, where more than one species share a common predator. So it's feared the Santa Barbara experience may be set to repeat itself elsewhere, as well.

A condition known as "El Niño /Southern Oscillation, (ENSO)" is believed to be playing a role here. El Niños  have been naturally-occurring phenomena for hundreds of years (warming the Pacific ocean off South America and affecting weather events, worldwide). But some recent studies conclude El Niños, too, may be becoming more intense and numerous because of manmade climate change. So, rather than occurring roughly once every 20 years, we might expect El Niños closer to one every decade. This does not bode well for species like the murralet.

The study was published this week by The Royal Society. The lead author of the study was Prof. S. Thomsen of Simon Fraser University, B.C.   

Friday, October 19, 2018

Mayor denies news report that a controversial Manitoba hog barn northwest of Brandon has been declared "legal." Newspaper rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias.

by Larry Powell
What the fuss is all about. A PinP photo.

The mayor of the RM of Yellowhead, Don Yanick is denying yesterday's headline story in the local newspaper, Crossroads This Week,  (see CTW story, below). It reads, "Hog Barn Found to be Legal." First of all, says Yanick, 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.

The building in question is a "finisher barn," where mature hogs are prepared for market. It's located in the eastern part of the RM, near the Village of Strathclair. It became controversial when the citizens' group, Hogwatch Manitoba, brought a formal complaint in September to the Yellowhead council.

The complaint 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 punitive action, including possible closure.

But Yanick tells 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 that assurance, 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 has 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 can be housed in the original barns (Verbruggen's "iso-wean" operations which have been there for years) and the addition now at the centre of the controversy. 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. "Local governments are not supposed to be in the business of counting pigs," she added.

Despite the fact this whole issue is not yet resolved, the newspaper story describes the Hogwatch allegations as "unwarranted swipes against a family farming operation." The remark was not directly attributed to Verbruggen, but seemed to appear more as an editorial comment.  

Greg Nesbitt, MLA

Crossroads This Week was originally put out out by Nesbitt Publishing in 1977 by Greg Nesbitt, now the Conservative MLA for the area.

Although a Google search still lists the politician as "publisher," his son, Ryan says that is incorrect. He says his father has not been publisher for years and that he (Ryan), now fulfills that role. 

A subsequent search lists Greg Nesbitt as 
"manager" of the company.

The majority Conservative Government, of which Greg Nesbitt is a member, has been pressing forward for well over a year now with an ambitious program to expand Manitoba's hog industry. It has done this through deregulation - doing away with rules designed to protect health and the environment - a process the government calls "red tape reduction."

In an e-mail to PinP, Ryan Nesbitt claims, his father no longer has anything to do with the paper's day-to-day operations and strongly rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias which this story may have raised. "We are just a small town newspaper trying to do its job," Nesbitt concludes.



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

Monday, October 15, 2018

PROFIT VS PEOPLE Corporate Power + Climate Change = Geocide

susan-geoprgeSusan George: We are faced with determined adversaries who care nothing about human rights or climate change. They only want a world in which they can make endless amounts of money using all available resources, no matter what the costs to nature and to human life.
Susan George is president of the board of the Trans National Institute, an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world. She spoke at the Seminar of the International Center for the promotion of Human Rights [CIPDH] and Unesco titled “Interreligious and inter cultural dialogue: consciences and climate change”  in September in Buenos Aires.  Read her lecture here.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Enbridge Pipeline Explosion Forces First Nations Community to Flee

A 36-inch natural gas transmission pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge exploded in rural land north of Prince George, B. C. this week, the Canadian pipeline company said in a media release. Story here.
Spills & explosions are no strangers to this corporation. Here, technicians
cut and remove a section of pipe in an earlier Enbridge incident - a
pipeline oil spill site near Marshall, Michigan. The U.S. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Farmed Out

George Monbiot's view from the U.K, here.

Gas is not a "bridge fuel" - it's a climate disaster! (Video)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The RM of Yellowhead will ask an independent investigator to solve a dispute over an allegedly illegal hog barn operation in southwestern Manitoba.

The citizens' group HogWatch Manitoba made an official presentation to the RM council two week ago, It claimed the barn owner, Wim Verbruggen had built a bigger barn housing more animals than the rules allowed. A Hogwatch official, Ruth Pryzner, suggested it be shut down because it had deprived any concerned resident the right to be heard. She also feared he may have to spread the waste on fields in winter, which is illegal. That's because he apparently has not expanded his storage capacity to take care of the waste from the barn.

But, following a council meeting today, Mayor Don Yanick told PinP, Verbruggen still maintains he is not keeping more animals than he should (He claims it is 297, not the 300 or more he is alleged to be). The Mayor says the RM will ask some independent person to look into the situation to confirm who is right before deciding on any further action. Despite the controversy, the Mayor says he would not be opposed to one or two more barns in the region in the future. 

After serving for several terms in that position, Yanick is not seeking re-election in the civic elections later this month.

Hogwatch has not yet commented on this latest development. But its position has already been,“If the Yellowhead Council refuses to take the strongest enforcement action possible, choosing instead to try and bring the operator into compliance with the law, rural people and the environment are in big trouble as the hog industry expands across the Province. Failures in the livestock approval system have broad implications for how hog barn expansion will proceed in the future under the Pallister government's direction,” Pryzner concluded.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC approved by governments

Damaged buildings in Hull, Québec three days after the tornado.
Photo by Roc 1981.

INCHEON, Republic of Korea, 8 Oct - Limiting global warming to 1.5oC would require rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment. Details here.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

"Manitoba doesn't need a carbon tax. We're already 'green!'" - Premier Brian Pallister.

by Larry Powell
Below is a copy of an e-mail I just sent to Chris Hall, host of the CBC Radio program, "The House." It concerns an interview he did this morning with Manitoba's Premier, Brian Pallister on the Premier's move to withdraw from the federal carbon tax plan. If you didn't hear it, Pallister announced to the world that a carbon tax is not needed in Manitoba because both he and his government are already green!
Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister.Photo by

Hi Chris!
I'm a native Manitoban who has, as a journalist, researcher and citizen, long been immersed in the politics of this province. I could hear the lies dripping from Premier Pallister's mouth as you interviewed him on the carbon tax this morning.

His assertion that both he and Manitoba are already green, comes less than a year after his government slashed important legislation. It once provided us with a measure of health and environmental protection from the mass pollution created by this province's already large "factory hog" industry. 

And, despite a wealth of science that shows the harm this industry has, for years, inflicted on our water, soil and air, countless new mega-barns are going up as we speak. Predictably, this is also being accompanied by a growing swell of complaints from rural residents whose solitude, privacy and property values are being invaded, not only by the stench from the barns and the disease-carrying manure being spread widely on food crops, but from dust and noise from huge semi-trailers rumbling along, nearby. 

Don't forget, animal agriculture is a significant contributor to the climate crisis, which was, after all, the topic at hand. It produces copious amounts of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than the most common one, carbon dioxide. 

Not surprisingly, under the guise of "investments" or "loans" (which may not be loans at all, but outright grants), this expanding industry is being "helped along" with generous dollops of our tax dollars. In what alternate universe could this possibly be considered a "polluter pay" policy?

Pallister's hidebound ideology - that we must have growth at all costs - and that most regulations amount to nothing more than "red tape" - amounts to contempt for his own citizens and an insult to our intelligence. 

Lake Winnipeg and other important waterways in this province have, for years, been so overgrown with algae (much of it the toxic "blue-green" kind), they can be seen from space! Does anyone in her right mind believe that massive industry expansion will make these problems anything but worse?

If Pallister had boasted that his province was not really green but "blue-green" he would have been closer to the truth!

Larry Powell
Shoal Lk. MB!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Climate scientists are struggling to find the right words for very bad news

The Washington Post.
A much-awaited report from the U.N.'s top climate science panel will show an enormous gap between where we are and where we need to be to prevent dangerous levels of warming. Story here.
Hurricane Florence. NASA

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Washington Rolls Back Safety Rules Inspired by Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The New York Times
The Trump administration has completed its plan to roll back major offshore-drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010 that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history. Story here.
The Deepwater Horizon oil slick from space. Photo by NASA.

Commercial fishing banned across much of the Arctic

The Guardian
International agreement will protect vast areas of sea that have opened up as the ice melts. Story here.
 Fishboats in Norway. Photo by Kristian Magnus Kenstad.

We must keep single-use plastics out of our oceans.

Greenpeace - More here.
Poster by Jessica - NOAA marine debris program.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Thawing permafrost may release more CO2 than previously thought, study suggests

New research from University of Alberta ecologists show "mineral weathering" can be a significant contributor to Arctic climate change. More here.
Melting permafrost in Alaska. Photo by the US Geological Survey.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...