Manitoba taxpayers paid out almost $900 thousand to help counter a deadly hog disease in this province. A PinP exclusive.

by Larry Powell

It cost the Manitoba treasury $871,847.26  to help hog producers battle “Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea,” (PED) since the killer virus invaded many barns in the southeast in the spring of 2017. But even with authorities warning that PED has now spread further west and north than ever before, and could return to the same high levels as it did in 2017, the provincial government claims it still doesn’t know how many piglets have died in the outbreak. (PED causes significant deaths only in animals in their first few days of life.)
Photo credit - Manitoba Pork.

*The Department of Agriculture tells PinP, "With respect to the number of piglet mortalities, this is personal business information and mortalities are not required to be reported for any livestock species.”

Yet the government’s own “Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulations” seem to suggest otherwise. They say, when a producer has more animals dying than he/she can routinely dispose of (as was almost certainly the case here), “the operator shall, without delay, provide an environment officer with any information about the situation that the officer requests.” 

So, what does this mean? The industry has been reporting the numbers, and the government is lying? Or, has the industry not been reporting them and, by so doing, breaking the law by ignoring the regulations? Or, has the government simply not been asking these question? Any one of these scenarios surely display serious neglect on someone's part!

A year or so after the initial outbreak, industry officials were describing how they got “walloped” by it, how desperate efforts to fight it were causing symptoms in some owners and barn workers similar to PTSD, and describing it as "the largest animal disease outbreak in the province in 30 years."

Yet the closest estimate to the number of mortalities on the public record appears in the online publication “Pig Progress” in March of 2018. A swine specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Robyn Harte, is quoted as saying, at the peak of the outbreak, “There were over one million pigs under surveillance.” She does not elaborate. 

Several other requests I’ve made to the industry group, Manitoba Pork for a figure on mortalities, have gone unanswered.

Another partial hint on the death toll came in June of 2017. The President of Hylife, a major, Manitoba-based producer and pork processor, was appearing before the Commons Agriculture Committee. Claude Vielfaure testified, "As of yesterday, we believe that we've lost 21,000 pigs already to PED." 

The cost to the public treasury comes in because the government helps industry manage the disease by paying for some veterinary fees, diagnostic services, lab supplies and staff expenses. 

Experts have warned for years that Intensive Livestock Operations, like the ones in Manitoba, where large numbers of animals are housed in confined spaces, contribute to disease outbreaks. Late in 2017, well after the initial outbreak, the provincial government relaxed regulations to allow for industry expansion.


**I initially asked the Government for this information in an e-mail. But it only responded after I launched a formal inquiry under “FIPPA,” the Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Act. 


PinP said…
Given the substantial dollars Manitoba taxpayers are paying to prop up this "high-maintenance" industry, one would think our government would have a slightly better handle on the toll diseases are taking, in real time!