Thursday, April 29, 2021



  1. Learn about the impending disaster of antibiotic resistance. 
  2. The heartbreak of having a factory barn as a neighbour. 
  3. And the explosion of toxic algae in our lakes. 


Monday, April 19, 2021

Buying carbon indulgences (Letter)

Letter - Manitoba Co-Operator 

Letters to the Editor
Manitoba Cooperator

Dear Mr. Gilmour:

Re: The carbon credit reality Feb.25

Almost four years ago I saw a full colour, half page ad placed by the Manitoba Pork Council with the Winnipeg Free Press. It claimed that Big Pig, as I know the MPC, had the strictest environmental protection of any jurisdiction in North America. So I wrote the former CEO to ask who had the second strictest. Obligingly, he wrote back to say that he didn't know. Yes, he didn't know. Meaning that the published claim was specious. (I exposed that lie before a legislative committee with the CEO in the room and the ad never again appeared in the Free Press.) 

So, excuse me if David McInnes' gushing about Canada's record in food sustainability appears to be similarly suspect. I duly note that he is under contract to 22 various and sundry special interest groups seeking some sort of Good Agribusiness Seal of Approval for food sustainability.

You report Maple Leaf Foods, of listeriosis infamy, buying indulgences in response to climate change. Paying industrial agribusiness  to store carbon is window dressing. It is form over substance. Farmers should be managing the land in the pursuit of regenerative agriculture because that is their calling, not because a billionaire needs them for promotional purposes that will enhance his company's status before a gullible media. 

On November 8, 2019 the Free Press published a story entitled "Maple Leaf Foods says it's now carbon neutral". Michael McCain gushed about his company's concern for the environment. This is the company that got a special dispensation from Gary Filmon (former MB  Premier) to destroy our locally sustainable hog farming community in favour of the current oligopoly that sees 8 million pigs raised under inhumane conditions with an enormous carbon footprint which in no way can be mitigated by writing a cheque to a foreign corporation. 

The Globe and Mail of December 17, 2019 reported that BMO has consumed the Kool-Aid. Maple Leaf now qualifies for BMO's "sustainability-linked" loans because of its ESG (environmental, social, governance) principles. However, to its credit, the Globe also noted that BMO did not audit, nor will it ever audit, Maple Leaf's ESG performance. And if it otherwise observes ESG failure, Maple Leaf will endure no financial penalty on its "sustainability-linked" loans. (BMO did not reply to my letter of complaint.)

Farmers will benefit financially if they embrace regenerative agriculture. That's unavoidable. Humans will secure our future because  such agriculture can contribute enormously to the drawdown our annual carbon production. Healing our soils worldwide will help to heal our climate and reverse the insidious desertification about which we were warned in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment over 20 years ago. Michael McCain writing a tax-deductible cheque to Indigo Ag in Boston only guarantees a deposit to Indigo's bank account and favourable media for Maple Leaf. Consultant McInnes speculates that Canada may be "the most sustainable food producer anywhere". In the meantime, Manitoba is overrun with what Big Pig four years ago called, essentially, the most sustainable pig factories in North America...until they weren't. 

Restorative agriculture demands commitment. Will Manitoba farmers rise to the challenge? This spring, check out the landscape. You will see fields tilled as black as the Ace of Spades. You will see topsoil blowing into ditches. Shelter belts being removed. Poison being applied. Drainage being accelerated. Wetlands destroyed. Carbon being surrendered to the atmosphere. And Mr. McInnes boasts of our "sustainability credentials"? That Maple Leaf, one of his clients, is part of a proposal to develop a "Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Index" is terrifying.

C.Hugh Arklie,

Saturday, April 17, 2021

"MY HERO IS YOU!" (Video)

Since Covid-19 cases are going in the wrong direction, I decided to repost "My Hero is You." It's a 15 minute video which I narrate. It's designed to help kids navigate through these tough times. It was made available via a United Nations committee about a year ago. It's illustrated with colourful, original images. While it's designed for older kids, you parents can decide if it's right for them. I call it a "Grampa Lar" production. Larry. 

Monday, April 12, 2021


by Larry Powell

I spotted these carcasses while going for a walk along the causeway across the northern section of the lake today. These were north of the causeway. I did not spot any to the south. They also appeared smaller and younger than the victims of the major kill which occurred on the same lake two years ago. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Unsettling currents: Warm water flowing beneath Antarctica’s ’Doomsday Glacier'

Science Daily

The calving front of Thwaites Ice Shelf looking at the ice below the water's surface as seen from the NASA DC-8 on Oct. 16, 2012. 

Data from underneath Thwaites Glacier, also known as the Doomsday Glacier. Story here.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Is Canada’s hog industry doing its part to counter antibiotic resistance, now considered a world health crisis? The most recent “report card” available seems to say, “no!”

by Larry Powell

Prairie producers were feeding more antibiotics to their pigs in 2018 than 2017. 

Antibiotics have been bestowing a world of good on the human condition ever since - and even before - Alexander Fleming discovered the most famous one - penicillin - almost a century ago. Thanks to their ability to counter deadly infections - life expectancies have increased dramatically - and millions of lives have been saved - truly a turning point in the history of mankind. 

But storm clouds have been gathering over this “age of enlightenment” for some time now.

It’s called “Antimicrobial resistance.” AMR happens when antibiotics are used too much, or for the wrong reasons. This does happen when treating people. However, as our own Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) makes clear, the real story lies elsewhere.

“There’s increasing evidence,” PHAC warns on its website, “that the use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine and livestock production is an important contributing factor in the emergence of bacteria in people which have grown resistant to these medications.” 

And the World Health Organization leaves little doubt about what should be done. “Simply stop giving animals such medications altogether, whether to promote growth or prevent disease. Healthy animals should only be treated if disease is diagnosed elsewhere in the same herd. And, even while treating animals already sick, only medications not considered critical for the treatment of human infections, should be used.”

If that’s the advice, what’s the reality?

The “Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance” is federally-mandated to find out how many of these drugs are used and why. Here’s what the 2018 CIPARS report reveals.

The use of antibiotics by industrial hog producers across the country was still common that year. (No more recent figures are available.) 

And, producers were still administering them for all the reasons warned against by the WHO. (See graph.)

They included nineteen different antibiotics considered important in the treatment of human infections.

Producers in Ontario and Quebec actually fed “significantly less” than they had in 2017. But, for their counterparts on the prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) it was a different story. In terms of both dosage numbers and quantities, they fed more. 

While the Prairie industry actually administered fewer drugs by injection than they had the year before, one of the products injected remains of particular concern. Ceftiofur is considered to be of “very high importance” in human medicine. And that’s because, while it’s not used on people, it’s closely related to another, ceftriaxone which is. And its feared, resistance which may develop to one, could readily transfer to the other.

The role of the livestock industry - and its consequences.

Almost eighty percent of antibiotics sold in this country are used to raise animals for food. And one rough estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization places yearly usage in the world’s livestock, at a-quarter-million tonnes. 

Such volumes provide ideal conditions for harmful microbes to develop resistance and grow into “superbugs.” These can then be transferred to those of us who eat the meat. And when we become sick, fewer and fewer of the best drugs used to treat us, are working.

“If AMR isn’t contained,” cautions the WHO, “medical procedures such as caesarean sections, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, organ transplantation, malaria, tuberculosis and even childbirth will become increasingly risky.” 

Just over a year ago, the Council of Canadian Academies confirmed that more than five thousand people had died as a direct result of AMR in 2018. And, if resistance continues to rise (which is considered highly likely), almost 400 thousand more of us will probably succumb by 2050. 

And the O’ Neill report commissioned by the UK government in 2014 predicted that, by mid-century, AMR will claim ten million lives a year, more than cancer itself. As the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, ominously concluded, “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine"

My request for comment from Manitoba Pork, which represents the industry here, went unanswered.


Given the dominance of the pork industry in Manitoba, where I live, I've been focussing on it in my research. This is why other livestock sectors are not mentioned here. l.p.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

'Silent superbug killers in a river near you,' including Spain, the US, Thailand and Manitoba, Canada.

World Animal Protection  

Public waterways next to industrial farms in Manitoba contain antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) that are dangerous to public health says a report from the global charity World Animal Protection. The report is the first multi-country investigation of its kind. 

Farmer Jeff Linton of Linton Pasture Pork, a high welfare farm in Ontario inspects one of his piglets. He is against all forms of industrial farming practices, including overcrowding animals which can cause stress and sickness leading to routine antibiotic use for disease prevention. World Animal Protection applauds farmers like Jeff who put the welfare of the animals first. Credit: Nina Devries/World Animal Protection Date: August 2019. (CNW Group/World Animal Protection)

ARGs should be of concern because they are the building blocks for "superbugs" (bacteria that have developed resistance to one or more antibiotics).  This means those antibiotics will be less or ineffective in treating infections in humans. Some antibiotics are already ineffective in some parts of the world. If action is not taken, in future, routine procedures like caesarean sections or cancer treatments could become dangerous worldwide. 

The report found that industrial farms could be discharging superbugs into the wider environment as a result of pig waste being spread on fields and leeching into groundwater and public waterways.

Once in the environment, superbugs can reach humans in multiple ways. This includes through recreation such as water sports, eating fish from contaminated water and eating of crops contaminated with surface water.  

In Manitoba, the presence of ARGs was evaluated from samples collected in November 2020 from publicly accessible spaces upstream and downstream of eight industrial pig farms. The investigation found ARGs resistant to antibiotics included cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, which are of most concern to the World Health Organization (WHO). These antibiotics are the last line of defence for common infections like urinary tract infections or to keep patients alive with life threatening conditions like respiratory infections, when other antibiotics fail.

The routine overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is recognized by the WHO and the United Nations as a significant contributor to the emergence of superbugs. Up to 10 million people are expected to die from superbugs each year by 2050 if action isn't taken to stop their overuse.

On industrial farms, mother pigs are often stuck in cages their entire lives, their piglets suffer from painful procedures such as tail cutting and the animals are forced to spend their lives in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions on concrete floors, with no enrichment. This can cause stress and sickness, so routine antibiotics are used on the animals for disease prevention.

Lynn Kavanagh, Farming Campaign Manager, at World Animal Protection, says,

"Industrial animal agriculture is taking risks with people's lives by routinely using antibiotics, which is fueling the rise in dangerous superbugs," she says. "Keeping animals in conditions where they're healthier, is the only way to stop the overuse of antibiotics on farms. We need to stop using antibiotics across groups of animals to prevent sickness."

World Animal Protection also interviewed people from communities near the farms where testing was done.

Vicki Burns is with the group Hogwatch Manitoba and says they have been trying for years to get government attention on their concerns about the pig farms. She says there are toxic odours coming from the barn, impacting the communities and that too much manure gets into the local lake.

"It's very challenging", says Burns. "It's hard to get any people in power to pay attention to the problems of industrial agriculture."

Bill Massey is a local small scale pig farmer. He says, "I think in terms of antibiotic use, animal welfare, animal health, and just the ethics of this whole thing, I can hardly believe we can treat animals like this. When you take an intelligent animal like that and you put them in those kinds of conditions, you can imagine the stress animals are enduring."

From January 2022, it will be illegal in the European Union to administer antibiotics across groups of farm animals to prevent disease. Canada should follow suit.

It is important to note that antibiotics are crucial to treat individual animals who become sick; but stopping the prophylactic use of antibiotics will also make them more effective when needed.

World Animal Protection also urges the Canadian government to help farmers transition to more sustainable and humane systems where animals don't suffer and human health isn't at risk.

About World Animal Protection

From our offices around the world, 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

For further information: Please contact Nina Devries, for interviews with a spokesperson, images and B-roll.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Evidence of Antarctic glacier's tipping point confirmed

Science Daily

The Pine Island ice shelf - Antarctica. Photo credit - NASA ice.

Researchers have confirmed for the first time that Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica could cross tipping points, leading to a rapid and irreversible retreat which would have significant consequences for global sea level. Story here.

Health Canada approves another product known to be deadly to beneficial organisms.

The Western Producer

Members of the "neonic" family are known mass-killers, esp. of pollinators such as honeybees. "Karen" holds dead bees at Hayes Valley Farm.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has announced that neonicotinoid insecticides are not a threat to aquatic insects when used as a seed treatment on canola and in many other instances. Details here.

The Arctic may be sea-ice-free in summer by the 2030s

  Nature Communications                                                 Photo by Patrick Kelley   The Arctic could be sea-ice-free during th...