Friday, December 31, 2021

Decoding the migration of the peregrine falcon

A Satellite-tagged peregrine at its nest site in the Lena Delta, Russia. Peregrines 
were tracked from six separate breeding areas across Arctic Eurasia. 
Genome re-sequencing identified differences among these populations. 
Variations in their numbers were linked to changes in 
glacial conditions over time. Credit: Andrew Dixon.

The migratory routes used by the peregrine falcon have been shaped by environmental changes since the last Ice Age, reports a study published in Nature. The paper also presents evidence that the distance travelled during migration is influenced by a genetic factor.

Satellite-tagged peregrine in Taimyr, Russia. Satellite tracking revealed a 
high degree of fidelity to nesting sites, wintering ranges and 
to the migratory routes connecting them.  
Credit: Andrew Dixon.

Millions of migratory birds have seasonally favourable breeding grounds in the Arctic, but spend their winters in different locations across Eurasia. However, little is known about the formation, maintenance and future of their migration routes or the genetic determinants of migratory distance.

Xiangjiang Zhan and colleagues combined satellite-tracking data from 56 peregrine falcons from Eurasian Arctic populations with genome data from 35 peregrines to study the migrations of this species. The authors found that five migratory routes were used across Eurasia, which have been shaped by environmental changes since the Last Glacial Maximum (around 20,000–30,000 years ago). Peregrines that migrated longer distances were also found to have a dominant genotype of the gene ADCY8 that — the authors suggest — may be associated with the development of long-term memory.

The authors propose that, in a changing global climate, peregrines in western Eurasia may suffer the highest probability of population declines, move to new wintering areas or perhaps stop migrating altogether. They conclude that using ecological interactions and evolutionary processes to study climate-driven changes in migration could help to facilitate the conservation of migratory birds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Long-distance movement of microplastics

Nature Communications

Microplastic pollution collected at a Key largo,
Florida beach State Park. An Ocean Blue Project photo.

Microplastics, detected in southern France, could have been transported over 4,500 km from their source, including over continents and oceans, suggests a study published in Nature Communications. The findings suggest that microplastic pollution can spread globally from its sources to remote regions.

Plastic pollution has been documented at high elevations and latitudes, and in regions with little local plastic use. The transportation of microplastics through the atmosphere has been suggested as occurring on regional scales. However, it is unclear how widespread this phenomenon is and, if like mercury and other pollutants, there is free transport of microplastics through the atmosphere that enables trans-continental movement.

Steve Allen and colleagues collected atmospheric microplastics at the high-elevation Pic du Midi Observatory in the French Pyrenees, southern France, and used atmospheric transport modelling to understand the potential sources and paths of these particles. Air masses containing microplastic' particles were found to have moved around 4,550 km on average in the week before arriving at the observatory, and were projected to mainly have arrived from the west and south, over the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The authors suggest that the potential sources of the microplastics may include North America, western Europe and North Africa, indicating trans-continental and trans-oceanic transport through the free troposphere (the layer of atmosphere above the clouds).

The findings suggest that regions with little local plastic usage could be impacted by microplastic source regions located far away

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Record profits for foreign-owned pig conglomerate, recently "gifted" with major grant from Canadian taxpayers to help with its Manitoba operations.


Below is a financial statement posted on the company website.

It was recently announced that the governments of Canada and Manitoba were "investing" $2.2 million in three agricultural research projects, to be conducted by the Dutch-based conglomerate, Topigs Norsvin Canada (TN), that will "enhance the competitiveness of Manitoba pork producers."
(And TN, too, no doubt!)

The announcement came despite opposition to a recently approved TN project to build major pig barns near the southern Manitoba community of Plumas. It drew the outrage of many of those residents, along with the citizen group, Hogwatch Manitoba. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Flooding caused by rapidly expanding hydroelectric dams in the tropics is pushing many jaguars and tigers to the brink of extinction

by Larry Powell

Balbina Dam flooded 3,129 square kilometers of tropical rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon. This hydroelectric reservoir is located in the core of the distribution of jaguars. Credit: E. M. Venticinque.

New research just published, finds hydropower development to satisfy the growing human demand for energy has become one of the major drivers of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation everywhere. The dams create massive reservoirs, which drown out the homes of many creatures, including these top predators.

A jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland habitat in the world. Credit: Steve Winter/National Geographic.

The scientists found no less than 164 dams intruding on more than 25 thousand square kilometres of jaguar range in Latin America. Sadly, plans show that number could well triple into the future.

Tigers in Sumatra are a critically endangered subspecies, which face additional threats from two hydropower dams planned to be constructed within their habitat. Credit: Pete Morris.

Four hundred and twenty-one dams we’re found to be ruining or damaging almost 14 thousand square kilometres of tiger habitat in Asia.

While only forty-one dams are planned in the territorial range of tigers, they will still infringe on conservation areas considered important for their conservation.

 Chiew Larn reservoir flooded 165 square kilometers of tropical forests in southern Thailand. Shortly after the inundation of this hydroelectric reservoir, tigers disappeared from the landscape. Credit: Nick Grady-Grot.

Researchers conclude that, even though the risks such projects pose to both land habitat and freshwater biodiversity are already known, they’re rarely taken into account.

As a result of their findings, just published in the journal “Communications Biology,” they call for “a more cautious pursuit of hydropower in topographically flat regions, to avoid extensive habitat loss and degradation.”

RELATED: Hydropower dams threaten fish habitats worldwide

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Melting glaciers could create new habitats for Pacific salmon

Nature Communications

US Fish & Wildlife Service`

Melting glaciers in western North America could create new habitats for Pacific salmon over the next century, a modelling study in Nature Communications suggests. 

Migratory Pacific salmon are one group of species whose abundances have dramatically shifted in response to changing climate patterns, however, the warming of Arctic and subarctic streams, in combination with glacier retreat, could create potential new habitats for salmon. Previous work has observed the colonization of newly de-glaciated streams by salmon, but predicting future shifts in salmon habitat across regions has been difficult. 

Kara Pitman and colleagues modelled glacier retreat under different climate change scenarios for a 623,000 km2 region of western North America. They quantified emerging streams created by glacier retreat, which they combined with stream gradient-based salmon habitat models. 

By 2100, the authors project that approximately 6,000 km of new streams will be accessible to Pacific salmon and, of this newly accessible habitat, nearly 2,000 km will be suitable for spawning and juvenile rearing. 

The authors note that glacier retreat is only one consequence of climate change and other climate-induced effects such as ocean heat waves, sea-level rise and extreme flood events could all cause widespread declines in salmon abundance. 

Glacier retreat also creates new prospects for industries such as mining, which can degrade salmon habitat. Understanding the timing and location of emerging salmon habitat is critical to informing conservation planning and to avoid degradation of future salmon habitat, the authors conclude.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Hog Watch Manitoba decries $2.2 million government subsidies to Topigs Norsvin - a foreign company, despite community concerns and opposition.

Winnipeg (December 2, 2021) – Hog Watch Manitoba shares the anger and frustration felt by many Plumas area residents who fought the approval of two large hog facilities in their municipality this past summer. Not only are they angered by the decision to go ahead with these two huge barns in the face of so much local opposition but now to find that their tax dollars are going to pay for it, is outrageous.  

They dispute the company’s claim this is being built in an isolated area as there are 8 homes in less than a 3 km circumference of one barn and the other is in close range to the Big Grass River and marshland, environmentally sensitive areas. 

There were 52 letters of opposition to the proposal and numerous presentations made expressing legitimate concerns about health impacts from toxic emissions from barns and open manure lagoons, and water consumption of 44,000 gallons a day depleting local water resources.

Hog Watch Manitoba is calling on both the provincial and federal governments to review their decision and if it cannot be reversed, provide local residents with assurances that toxic odour problems and water shortages will not be allowed. Mitigation such as air scrubbers on barns and water rights being enshrined should be imposed.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Arctic rainfall predicted to increase faster than expected

Kayaking in the Canadian Arctic. Photo credit -  Kerry Raymond

Nature Communications

The amount of rainfall in the Arctic may increase at a faster rate than previously thought, according to a modelling study published in Nature Communications. The research suggests that total rainfall will supersede snowfall in the Arctic decades earlier than previously thought, and could have various climatic, ecosystem and socio-economic impacts.

The Arctic is known to be warming faster than most other parts of the world, leading to substantial environmental changes in this region. Research suggests that there will be more rainfall than snowfall in the Arctic at some stage of the 21st century, but it is not yet clear when this shift will occur.

Michelle McCrystall and colleagues used the latest projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) to assess the changes in the Arctic water cycle by the year 2100. The authors found that precipitation, such as rainfall and snowfall, is projected to increase in all seasons. Rainfall is projected to become the dominant form of precipitation one to two decades earlier than previous models suggested, depending on the season and region, linked to increased warming and a faster decline of sea ice. For example, previous models projected the central Arctic to transition to a rainfall-dominated region in 2090, but it is now predicted to transition in 2060/2070. The authors suggest that a transition to a rainfall-dominated Arctic could occur at lower temperature thresholds than previous models projected, even at 1.5°C warming in some regions, such as Greenland.

The authors argue that more stringent climate mitigation policies are required, as a rainfall-dominant Arctic would have impacts on ice sheet melting, rivers and wild animal populations, and have important social-ecological, cultural and economic implications.

Monday, November 22, 2021


 Manitoba/Canada News Release


The governments of Canada and Manitoba are investing $2.2 million in three agricultural research projects, to be conducted by Topigs Norsvin Canada (TN), that will enhance the competitiveness of Manitoba pork producers by improving the precision feeding of sows and promoting higher animal welfare standards, Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Ralph Eichler announced today.

"These innovative projects will give the pork industry more tools in their sustainability toolbox," said Bibeau. "They will help to improve feeding and housing for the pigs, which leads to better resource efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint for producers. Topigs Norsvin plays a big role in making Canada a global leader in swine genetics, and we are proud to support their work."

"Our government is pleased to support the work of our producers through these innovative projects that will accelerate agricultural innovation, promote knowledge transfer to producers, advance value-added opportunities, strengthen competitiveness and support sustainable agricultural development in our provincial pork industry," said Eichler. "The results of these projects will be valuable in our continuing efforts to strengthen the sustainability of our provincial pork industry."

The three research projects, which will help the pork industry be more environmentally and economically sustainable, will focus on:

improving competitiveness and sustainability of pork production through increased feed efficiency, improved carcass quality and higher animal welfare standards by innovative application of microbiome profiling, computer tomography and genomics;

advancing sow reproductive knowledge and management practices for optimal lifetime productivity and embryo transfer success; and innovative application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, behavioural science and genomics to enhance resource efficiency for environmental sustainability of sow farms in Manitoba using welfare friendly production.

Funding is provided by the Ag Action Manitoba Program-Research and Innovation, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The funded research will be beneficial to the province's first-of-its-kind sustainable protein strategy, ensuring Manitoba producers are well-positioned to remain leaders in plant and animal protein development in the face of increased global demand for high-quality protein, the minister added.

A key element of the strategy includes using innovation to grow livestock herds for animal protein and new acres for plant protein, while ensuring Manitoba remains a strong environment for investment and is responsive to the needs of producers.

TN is establishing an over $30-million new research and development facility in Plumas, Manitoba. It is to be completed by the end of 2022 and is aimed at sow management, where the funded projects will be conducted and results shared with industry stakeholders. The first of its kind in the world, these projects will utilize leading-edge artificial intelligence, computer vision, behavioural research, and precision feeding to generate a database comprised of important animal health and welfare data.

"Topigs Norsvin continuously monitors international developments in the pork industry and prides itself as a leader in the sector," said Hans Olislagers, Chief Technical Officer, Topigs Norsvin. "Implementation of loose housing of sows during farrowing is already legislated in several countries and we recognize our responsibility to breed and select pigs while maintaining the integrity of animal welfare. This assures our customers that our genetics will fit the housing systems and market demands of the future."

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion investment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada's agriculture, agri-food and agri-products sectors. This commitment includes $2 billion for programs cost-shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.


In Hogs we Trust - Part 11

$$The Price we Pay for Corporate Pork$$

- 30 -

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cancer: Fatty acid in palm oil promotes tumour metastasis in mice


Vast areas of rain forest habitat continue to be cleared for oil palm plantations like
this in Sarawak. Photo credit: Ben Sutherland

Exposure to high concentrations of a dietary fatty acid contained in palm oil promotes the metastasis of mouth and skin cancer cells in mice, according to a paper published in Nature.

Changes in the uptake and metabolism of fatty acids have been linked to cancer metastasis — the process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. However, it is unclear which dietary fatty acids in particular might be responsible for these changes, and the biological mechanisms involved.

Salvador Benitah and colleagues exposed human mouth and skin cancer cells to one of three types of dietary fatty acid — palmitic acid (the main saturated fatty acid in palm oil), oleic acid or linoleic acid — for four days, before introducing them into corresponding tissues in mice fed a standard diet. Although tumour initiation was not found to be influenced by any of the fatty acids studied, palmitic acid significantly increased both the penetrance and size of existing metastatic lesions. No such significant effect was observed for oleic or linoleic acid.

Pro-metastatic cancer cells also retained ‘memory’ of exposure to high levels of palmitic acid. For example, tumours from mice fed a palm-oil-rich diet for only ten days or tumour cells exposed to palmitic acid in the laboratory transiently for four days (before returning to normal medium) remained highly metastatic even when transplanted into mice fed on a normal diet. This process is associated with epigenetic changes — molecular modifications that alter patterns of gene expression without the DNA itself being altered — in metastatic cells that are suggested to mediate the long-term stimulation of metastasis.

The findings may aid in the identification of new therapies, the authors conclude.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Farmers on the Canadian prairies set fire to their fields - are they placing their reputation as "stewards of the land" on the line?

by Larry Powell
SHOAL LAKE, MANITOBA, CANADA: As dedicated, well-meaning people gathered in Scotland to find ways to counter our climate crisis, farmers on the Canadian prairies were waging a "scorched earth" war on their fields.  By taking advantage of severe drought that has rendered those fields tinder-dry, they were able to effectively burn down marsh-plants - mostly cattails in and around wetlands diminished by that same drought. 
Farmers commonly use specially-fitted quads like this to light fires on their land. 
PinP photos. 

Dozens of such fires could be spotted each day for many days this fall in the vicinity of my own community in southwestern Manitoba, too.

So, do they really "get" the adage, "Think globally. Act locally?" 

You be the judge.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Airguns and ship sounds dangerously disrupt the natural behaviour of the "unicorn of the sea." Study

The Royal Society - Biology Letters

A pod of narwhals in the Arctic.

Manmade noise is increasing in the Arctic, posing a threat to narwhals. To study this, narwhals were fitted with tags and exposed to ship and airgun noise. The whales showed clear reactions to sound disturbance by first reducing and then ceasing foraging. Reactions could be detected as far as 40 km from the ship, where the signals were embedded in the natural background noise. The reactions of the whales demonstrate their sensitivity and emphasize that - "if healthy narwhal populations are to be maintained," humans need to "manage" activities that make such noise.

The findings have just been published by the Royal Society.

Please also read:


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Baleens - beneficial gluttons of the high seas

Scientists believe the ravenous appetites of baleen whales - Earth's largest creatures - and their prodigious waste - hold clues to the very health and productivity of our oceans.

by Larry Powell

A blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) defecates. Photo credit-Ryan Lavery (Smithsonian)

Baleens include humpbacks, fins, minkes and blue whales, the latter being the largest creatures ever to live on Earth. The carnivorous marine mammals catch and consume vast amounts of prey. And they recycle ocean nutrients by excreting undigested food in what have been described as "volcano-like" movements.

A minke whale tagged by the research team off the coast of Antarctica in 2019. Credit: Ari Friedlaender under NOAA/NMFS permit 23095.

By attaching tags to the backs of 321 whales from seven baleen species, the researchers now reckon that - before the onset of whaling in the twentieth century - and in the Southern Ocean alone - baleens were, amazingly, consuming more than twice what the world's entire marine fisheries catch today. 

A humpback whale feeds on sand lance in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Elliott Hazen

Yearly, they probably ate 430 million tonnes of Antarctic krill (small crustaceans found in all the world's oceans) before whaling ramped up in the 19 hundreds in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. That's up to thirty percent of their entire body mass, on average, and, in some areas of the ocean at least, triple the volume previously thought. And, incredibly, it's twice the total biomass of this entire species of krill thought to exist today. 

The scientists hope, if baleen numbers could somehow recover to what they were before that twentieth century whaling, their "nutrient recycling services" could not only help boost ocean productivity but restore ecosystem functions to their previous glory.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, heavily involved in the study, whales both eat and excrete immense amounts of iron. It is an important nutrient which spurs the growth of phytoplankton blooms. If it weren't for the whales, this valuable commodity would sink from near the surface, where the whales live (and where the iron is needed), to the bottom where it would be lost. 

These findings have just been published in the journal, Nature.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Declining Arctic sea ice may increase wildfires in the western US - & Canada?


Declining sea ice in the Arctic may contribute to increased wildfire activity in the western United States, suggests a modelling study published in Nature Communications. The finding demonstrates the influence that human-induced climate change can have on extreme weather events in the region.

Wildfires in the western US (& Canada) have become more frequent and severe in recent years. Although there is some evidence that Arctic sea ice declines can influence extreme weather conditions in temperate and subtropical regions, the impact on wildfires has been unclear.

Yufei Zou, Hailong Wang and colleagues combined data on wildfire incidence, sea ice concentrations and weather conditions over the past 40 years and conducted model simulations to investigate the relationship between these factors. 

The authors identified an association between declining Arctic sea ice concentrations from July to October and the increasing probability of large wildfires in the western US during the following September to December. The model simulations indicate that declines in Arctic sea ice are linked to air circulation changes that cause hotter and dryer weather conditions, which increase the likelihood of wildfires.

The authors conclude that the influence of Arctic sea ice concentrations on wildfires is of similar magnitude to that of the tropical El Niño Southern Oscillation, which can also modulate regional wildfire conditions. As Arctic sea ice is projected to continuously decline, this could further increase the susceptibility of the western US to wildfires in the future, they suggest.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Major toilet paper brands are flushing our forests down the drain

The National Observer

What runs through your mind when you’re deciding which toilet paper to buy? Sale price, roll size, pitiful single-ply or luxurious triple? Climate change might not make your list of considerations, but it should. Story here.

Please also watch this video.

"Truth in Advertising - a TV commercial as it should be"

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Australian bushfires triggered prolific phytoplankton blooms vast distances away


Bushfire East of Lake Dundas, Western Australia. Photo by Pierre Markuse

The 2019–2020 Australian wildfires released more than twice as much CO2 as previously reported on the basis of different fire inventories, reports a Nature paper. 

An independent study also published in Nature, suggests that aerosol emissions from these wildfires are likely to have fuelled vast plankton blooms thousands of kilometres away in the Southern Ocean. 

The findings highlight the complex links between wildfires, ecosystems and the climate. Climate-change-driven droughts and warming play a role in increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires, which release CO2 into the atmosphere, potentially driving further climate change and increasing the risk of wildfires. 

In the summer season of 2019–2020, around 74,000 km2 — an area roughly equivalent to 2.5 times the area of Belgium — burned in the eucalyptus forests in the coastal regions of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia. These wildfires are known to have been extremely large in scale and intensity, and to have released large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, but emission estimates remain uncertain.

To gain insights into the amount of CO2 released by the Australia wildfires, Ivar Van der Velde and colleagues analysed new high-resolution satellite measurements of carbon monoxide concentration in the atmosphere, from which they infer fire-induced carbon emissions. They estimated that around 715 teragrams of CO2 were emitted between November 2019 and January 2020 — more than twice the amount previously estimated from five different fire inventories and comparable to a bottom-up bootstrap analysis of this fire episode, surpassing Australia’s normal annual fire and fossil fuel emissions by 80%. 

Gaining a stronger understanding of the atmospheric burden of CO2 caused by these fires, and what they will cause in the future, is critical for constructing future scenarios of the global carbon balance, the authors note.

In addition to carbon emissions, wildfires release aerosols that affect ecosystems; for example, transportation of nutrients such as nitrogen and iron can enhance plankton growth. Nicolas Cassar, Weiyi Tang and colleagues report the presence of extensive phytoplankton blooms from December 2019 to March 2020 in the Southern Ocean, downwind of the fires. Aerosol samples originating from the fires contained high levels of iron, which the authors suggest were transported vast distances and fertilized the blooms.

Together, these studies demonstrate that wildfires can have an important influence on atmospheric CO2 levels and ocean ecosystems.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Deforestation and fires are shrinking Amazonian habitats


 The Amazon - Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Bruno Kelly

The Amazon Basin has a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate and is home to 10% of all known species. Degradation of the forest threatens the resilience of this ecosystem; around 21–40% of the forest cover is predicted to be lost by 2050, which will have large impacts on Amazonian biodiversity. 

To better understand these impacts, Xiao Feng and colleagues investigate how forest fires have been affecting the geographic range of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 animal species over the past two decades.Up to 85% of species listed as threatened in the Amazon may have lost a substantial portion of their habitat owing to deforestation and fires in the past two decades, a study in Nature indicates. It is estimated that for every 10,000 km2 of forest that is burned, about 27–37 additional plant species and about 2 or 3 more vertebrate species that have more than 10% of their range in the Amazon will be affected. As fires move closer to the heart of the Amazon Basin, which has greater levels of biodiversity, the impact of fires on biodiversity is expected to increase.

Since 2001, up to 189,755 km2 of Amazon rainforest have experienced fires - as much as four % of  the total area. This has impacted the ranges of as many as 85 % of species listed as threatened in this region. They note that periods of increased fires correlate with relaxation of policies designed to slow deforestation and forest burning. 

In Brazil, policies to reduce deforestation implemented in the mid-2000s were relaxed in 2019, which saw an increase of up to 28% in fire-impacted area, affecting the ranges of an estimated 12,064–12,801 plant and vertebrate species.

These findings demonstrate the connection between policy and forest fires and how these factors can impact biodiversity, the authors conclude.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Nearly Half the World's Children at 'Extremely High Risk' for Facing Effects of Climate Crisis, Report Finds

Common Dreams

 OCHA/Giles Clarke. Displaced children stand in the shredded remains of tents in Abs settlement, Yemen, for internally displaced persons. Located just 40 km from the frontlines, the settlement is regularly damaged by passing sandstorms.

"Virtually no child's life will be unaffected" by the climate emergency, said the director of UNICEF. Story here.

Monday, August 16, 2021

New polling shows Canadian voters are very concerned about the impact of industrial farming


TORONTO - The global charity World Animal Protection commissioned a public opinion poll to find out where Canadians stand on issues related to our food system, including animal welfare, the environmental impacts of industrial animal agriculture and the overuse of antibiotics. An EKOS research online survey of 2,143 Canadians conducted last month shows that Canadians have many concerns about the harmful effects of industrial animal agriculture.

And with a potential election looming, the charity hopes all political party leaders will address such issues on the campaign trail.

When it comes to safeguarding human health, 60 per cent of Canadians agreed with many experts who have identified antibiotic overuse on farm animals as contributing to a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria (aka "superbugs"). Superbugs make it harder for humans to respond to treatment from antibiotics.

A recent report from the charity even found antibiotic resistance genes (which are the building blocks of superbugs) in waterways near industrial pig farms in Manitoba. This is concerning because once in the environment, superbugs can reach humans in multiple ways.This includes swimming in or eating fish from contaminated waterways. Superbugs can even be transmitted through eating crops that have been watered with contaminated sources.

The routine overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is also recognized by the World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN) as a significant contributor to the emergence of superbugs. Currently, 700,000 people die each year from untreatable infections. This number is estimated to grow to 10 million by 2050 if action isn't taken to stop antibiotic overuse.

The online survey showed 60 per cent of Canadians support phasing out the prophylactic use of antibiotics in industrial farming. The strongest support for this came from women (65 per cent) and BC residents (68 per cent).

Lynn Kavanagh, Farming Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection says, "Demand for high amounts of animal protein fuels intensification, which in turn fuels the reliance on prophylactic antibiotic use. We need to adopt a healthier farming system which necessitates reducing how much meat and dairy we consume."

Canadians are making this connection. One out of three Canadians report reducing or eliminating their consumption of animal products over the past 12 months. The two main reasons cited are health (41 per cent) and to reduce the impact on climate change (31 per cent).

Over the course of this summer wildfires have raged across BC – a wake-up call to the dire consequences of climate change. And as the latest UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released earlier this week shows us, we need to act now.

Industrial animal farming is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases. Almost half (47 per cent) of Canadians are concerned about the possible environmental effects of animal consumption, especially young voters under 35 (61 per cent).

To support a healthier, more sustainable food system two thirds of Canadians support providing financial incentives to farmers to transition away from the industrial model of farming to more sustainable systems.

Preventing the next pandemic is also on the minds of Canadians. The poll shows 82 per cent believe preventing future pandemics are very or somewhat important issues when deciding who to vote for.

There is a strong link between industrial animal farming and pandemics. Previous pandemics such as the avian flu and swine flu have come from farms and some scientists predict the next pandemic could come also from a farm. In industrial farms across Canada and around the world animals are kept in overcrowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions, making it easy for diseases to spread.

Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme in a recent report, cites 'increased demand for animal protein' and 'unsustainable agriculture intensification' (mostly of animals) as two of the top seven drivers of pandemic risk. 

"The time is now for all political parties to show Canadians how they plan to address the impacts of industrial animal farming," says Kavanagh. "Human health and animal health are connected, and the government has an opportunity to promote a food system that protects the environment and public health."

About World Animal Protection

From our offices worldwide, including China, Brazil, Kenya and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. Last year, we gave more than 220 million animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming. For more information visit

SOURCE World Animal Protection

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Loophole keeps bee-killing pesticides in widespread use, two years after EU ban


Investigation finds EU countries have issued at least 67 different 'emergency authorisations' for outdoor use of three neonicotinoids since ban came into force in 2018.
Story here.

Monday, August 9, 2021

UN sounds alarm on 'irreversible' climate impacts, but offers hope

CBC News

Two plumes of smoke from the Long Loch wildfire and the Derrickson Lake wildfire, British Columbia 2021. BC Wildfire Service.

This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels': UN Secretary General António Guterres. Story here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021


I wrote this letter a couple of years ago about a road construction project past my door. I realize it was a "minority" if not an "oddball" position to be taking. Now that our world is descending, and not so slowly anymore, into a kind of Hell on earth, with wildfire smoke insinuating iself iyour lungs and mine, hooddball do I seem now?

See "comments," at bottom.


If ever there was an example of just how numb we are to the planetary crisis we are now in, it’s surely playing out in plain sight right here, right now, in Shoal Lake. As many of my neighbours will already know, big dump trucks have been lumbering by on the street in front of our homes for about a week now. Beginning before dawn, they sometimes approach a steady stream that lasts all day until about dusk. 

The mine supplying the raw product has been expanding for years along the banks of the Birdtail River. I’ve been out there a few times over the past few years. I’ve captured dramatic shots of the copious dust it kicks up when in full operational mode (visit and heard the clamour of the machines echoing up and down an otherwise peaceful valley. Prevailing westerlies carry the dust right over (and no doubt into) the river water. Such sediment has long been proven to be bad news for fish and other aquatic life. 

This seems to matter not, however. Neither does the fact that internal combustion engines are big contributors of greenhouse gases and climate change (which the experts predict will be in “runaway mode,” or beyond our ability to turn around, in about a decade). 

Apparently, we are also supposed to ignore the medical fact that being exposed to diesel fumes, even for a short time, can cause coughing, eye, nose, throat irritation. Long-term exposure, can lead to serious health effects, including cancer. So just how long will this highway “improvement” project last? I have no idea, do you? 

And, by the way, did you take part in the vote that gave them our permission to do this? Oh, that’s right! There wasn’t one, was there?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


 By Larry Powell

This book should be required reading for anyone who is concerned about the way hogs are raised in Manitoba. And that goes double for those who may still actually believe there's nothing to be concerned about. 

Manitoba author Bill Massey (above) grew up in a troubled family with an abusive father. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, he emerged with a heightened sense of what was fair and what was not. His toughness and perseverance would serve him well in the face of the challenges which lay ahead - ones he could not have possibly imagined. 

Bill and his wife Dorothy have, for years, raised chickens and a few hogs on their little farm near Grosse Isle, northwest of Winnipeg. Both have also been teachers, he, a principal and an advocate for abused children. 

In 2004, their lives would change, and not for the better. A nearby hog barn, operated by a Hutterite colony, announced it planned to expand. Right away, Bill smelled trouble ahead. And he was right. In the years since, that operation has proven to be an intrusive neighbour which is still leaving a legacy of stink and pollution. 

Bill soon emerged as a leader in a community trying to do something about the excesses of the hog factory. But he and his allies were to learn a bitter lesson -  that neither governments, nor politicians nor bureaucrats were on their side.  Their job was to serve the interests of the colony and make its operation a commercial success. Period. 

One telling paragraph in Bill's book confirms as much. Former government bureaucrats had told him, privately, their job was to help producers (in this case the colony) find their way around government regulations. 

It became difficult to impossible for Bill's group to even find out how many hogs were being housed in the facility at any one time. They were confronted with a confusing array of rules that either shifted depending on who they asked, or were ignored when convenient to the colony. For example, there were no penalties if they incorrectly filled out manure management plans which are supposed to include herd numbers. 

Bill's years-long fight cost him friends both within and outside of the colony. Yet, he carries on, to this day, after being let down by successive governments, both of NDP & Conservative persuasion. Even the Manitoba ombudsman, supposedly the last defence for this province's citizens against over-reach by government or industry, failed to support them.
Bill meticulously documents the series of events which occurred in his campaign over about 17 years, intertwining it with the reality that was his own, turbulent childhood. 

It's a fascinating read. 

To buy this book, just click here and scroll down. 


Saturday, July 10, 2021

More than five million deaths a year can be attributed to abnormal hot and cold temperatures

Monash University - Science Daily

The Sparks fire during an historic heatwave in BC, Canada.
A BC Wildfire Service photo June 20-21.

The world's largest study of global climate related mortality found deaths related to hot temperatures increased in all regions from 2000 to 2019, indicating that global warming due to climate change will make this mortality figure worse in the future. The international research team looked at mortality and temperature data across the world.    Story here.

Friday, July 9, 2021


Bill Massey - author of, "Of Pork & Potatoes - a memoir"

Massey made the presentation, below, to a Conditional Use Hearing at the RM of Westlake-Gladstone Municipality on July 8th 2021.  

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this hearing.  My name is Bill Massey and I have led a group called the Concerned Citizens of Grosse Isle in our struggle with a hog barn in our community.  I have written a book called Of Pork & Potatoes that chronicles the events of the past 15 years in our community.  I’ve been asked to speak by members of your municipality and I’m hoping my remarks will be helpful.

I want to begin by describing the issue of odour that our community experienced.  People have been unable to enjoy their properties or care for their yards because of the smell.  Some of them had even confined themselves to their homes.  Others had disconnected fresh air intakes on air conditioning units to attempt to minimize the odor.  People without air conditioning and with young children are particularly hard hit.  We realized what we were up against on one very cold day putting up Christmas lights on the outside of the house, the light southwest wind carrying the smell from the barn.  It was extreme, to say the least, and felt acidic in your nose and throat.  We were driven indoors and had to wait until the wind shifted the next day before we could finish putting up our lights.

When it comes to smell you will be told by the provincial government that it’s your responsibility and yours alone.  People will come to you and expect you to do something about this problem. Those people are your friends, neighbours and constituents.  The government will be of no help to you because unfortunately they have given up their role as a regulator of the industry and are simply an enabler.  It got to the extent with our committee that the provincial government actually urged the municipal government to ignore their own bylaws and allow the producer to have more hogs in their operation than was permitted under the Planning Act.  You can imagine the difficulty that that created for a council facing a number of angry people demanding answers.  When I confronted the provincial government on this behavior they backed down somewhat but that was no help to the council and for our group, the damage was done.  You can read the exchange of letters between our group and the provincial government on this matter on my blog,

I just heard a news item in the media that stated that morale among staff in Conservation was very low and the government was having trouble filling positions.  That does not surprise me in the least. It is common knowledge that former conservation officers have suggested that their role in the department was to help the producer find their way around the regulations.  There have been a number of conservation people who have gone over to the hog industry and the pork council over the years, the former head of the Pork Council being one of them.  I would seriously question the validity of the technical review and get an outside opinion if I were you.  Just recently at Landmark Manitoba, the technical review gave the green light to a development ½ mile outside the community!  Landmark is a town as big or bigger than Gladstone. How can that be valid in anyone’s mind?

I want to talk about the social costs of a development like the one you are considering.  This developer is not from the community.  They have no allegiance to the people who live there.  Its one thing when the producer is a local person and has relationships with the people living around the barn, but when that is not part of the process, it becomes much more difficult for the community to deal with this problem.  These corporations usually offer minimum wage and local people usually won’t work in these unhealthy situations.  We know of situations in the province where workers are brought in from third world countries to work in these barns. I feel these people, because of their circumstances, are being taken advantage of and that does not sit well with me or anyone concerned about human rights.

In our community there were people who supported the idea of a hog barn and there were those of us against it.  This causes serious conflicts among local people. This has been a problem in most communities where hog barns have been built.  It got to a point in one community, where children of people opposed to the barn were being bullied at school.  Some people were forced to sell out because they could not stand to live in the shadow of the barn.  When it comes to selling, we know that if you’re anywhere close to a hog barn your property values may fall as much as 50%.

I grew up on a small farm near Kelwood, Manitoba in a friendly and helpful community.  As neighbours we looked out for each other and tried to help out where we could.  I do the same today and that is one of the reasons why I took on the leadership of my group to try to maintain that care and concern for my neighbours.  We’re used to that attitude and we’re not used to a corporate factory farm entity that comes into our community and creates  all of this conflict and unhappiness.  This is a foreign consortium proposing this development.  The profits will go to another country while we’re left with the conflict, the pollution and the smell.

This government passed changes to the planning act called Bill 19.  In that bill they gave a government appointed body, the Municipal Board, the power to overturn municipal decisions. This is an assault on Democracy in this province. Don’t let that influence you in saying no to this development.  This government and any who follow need to understand that we do not want this industry as it’s structured now, in our communities.  Do the right thing and turn down this application.  

Thank you.


"Confronting blatant propaganda from Manitoba's industrial hog sector"

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