Monday, May 31, 2021

Sunday, May 30, 2021

A serious disease of Chinook salmon, originating from fish farms in Norway, has now spread to wild salmon off the coast of BC: Study.

University of British Columbia

The Chinook salmon. Photo by Zureks.

The virus known as PRV, is associated with kidney and liver damage in Chinook salmon.  A new study in Science Advances shows -- it's continually being transmitted between open-net salmon farms and wild juvenile Chinook salmon in British Columbia waters.

The study traces its origins to Atlantic salmon farms in Norway and finds that the virus is now almost ubiquitous in salmon farms in B.C.

It also shows that wild Chinook salmon are more likely to be infected with PRV the closer they are to salmon farms, which suggests farms transfer the virus to wild salmon.

Genome sequencing of viruses from farms and wild fish further indicates that transmission occurs between farms and wild salmon.

"Both our genomic and epidemiological methods independently came to the same conclusion, that salmon farms act as a source and amplifier of PRV transmission," said Dr. Gideon Mordecai, a viral ecologist and Liber Ero fellow with UBC Science and researcher with UBC Medicine, who led the study. "Because separate lines of independent evidence all point to the same answer, we're confident in our finding."

Sequencing of 86 PRV genomes helped researchers track the history of PRV emergence in British Columbia. They estimate that the lineage of PRV in the North East Pacific diverged from PRV in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 30 years ago. This suggests that the introduction of PRV to B.C. and infection of wild Pacific salmon is a relatively recent phenomenon, coincident with the growth of salmon aquaculture in the province -- not dating back to early attempts to introduce Atlantic salmon to the region, starting in 1874.

"There is much confusion about where PRV is originally from, whether it is transmitted between farmed and wild salmon, and how different lineages of the virus cause different severities of disease," said Dr. Mordecai. "This study's genome sequencing clearly indicates PRV is not native to B.C. waters -- it originated in the Atlantic Ocean and has been spread around the world through salmon aquaculture."

RELATED: "Toxic Tides."

The study highlights the role of aquaculture in introducing novel pathogens to new regions, where they then spread to wild fish, and integrates the expertise of the two senior authors, Dr. Kristi Miller, a DFO scientist and Professor Jeffrey Joy, a UBC evolutionary geneticist. It demonstrates the value of genomics in the surveillance of viral pathogens affecting important fisheries resources and how analytical methods derived from the epidemiology of human viruses can be adapted and applied to conserving wild salmon populations.

Further analysis of PRV genomes generated by the study suggested that there has been a growth in the number of PRV infections in B.C. over recent decades. This finding corresponds with the regional growth in salmon aquaculture and high rates of viral infection in salmon farms.

"Our finding that PRV is transmitted between farmed and wild salmon is particularly relevant given recent field and laboratory studies showing the lineage of PRV in B.C. is likely to cause disease in both Pacific and Atlantic salmon" says Dr. Mordecai. A recent Norwegian study found that a Canadian isolate of the virus causes heart lesions in Atlantic salmon. More importantly to the Pacific ecosystem, PRV has been associated with a different disease in Chinook salmon in which blood cells rupture, leading to kidney and liver damage. These are in contrast to the DFO's assessment that PRV is not a disease agent.

"Our study reaffirms that a more precautionary approach to managing salmon farming in BC is warranted," says study co-author Dr. Andrew Bateman, of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. "The PRV findings, in particular, support calls to transition from open-net salmon farming towards farming technology that doesn't allow disease transfer between farmed and wild salmon, protecting BC's wild Pacific salmon from serious risk in the process."

"The study provides foundational information necessary to assess the risk of salmon aquaculture on wild fish, as recommended by the Auditor General of Canada's 2018 Report on Salmon Farming, which criticized DFO's ability to manage aquaculture in a precautionary manner," says Professor Jeffrey Hutchings of Dalhousie University, a leading Canadian fisheries scientist who was not involved with the research. "The work by Mordecai, Miller, and colleagues on PRV provides the most compelling, scientifically objective evidence to date that wild salmon in BC are at increased risk of disease because of open net-pen Atlantic salmon aquaculture," adds Professor Hutchings.

 The collaborative study included UBC. and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Advocates protest Manitoba's proposed 'ag-gag' bill which outlaws feeding animals during transport 

CBC News

Millions of sows like this spend much of their lives in tiny torture chambers, euphemistically called "gestation crates." A Mercy for Animals photo.

Province says law addresses biosecurity concerns, but animal rights lawyer disputes that claim. Story here.


"Confronting blatant propaganda from Manitoba's industrial livestock sector."

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds

 The Washington Post

A lagoon waste management system for a 900 head hog farm in Georgia. 

Photo by Jeff Vanuga, USDA

The first-of-its-kind report pinpoints meat production as the leading source of deadly pollution. Story here.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Deaths From Fossil Fuel Pollution Much Worse Than COVID-19

Below 2C

The Koch fertilizer plant in Brandon, Manitoba, CA has, since at least 2004, been listed by "Climate Change Connection" as the worst "large final emitter" in this province. “LFEs” are industries or landfills which spew at least 50 thousand tonnes of C02 equivalent into the air annually. Latest figs. show the Koch plant released almost 800 thousand tonnes in 2018. (A PinP photo.)

More people die every year from fossil fuel pollution than have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak in early 2020. According to new research, 8.7 million died prematurely in 2018—more than 18% of the entire global death toll for the year. And while the daily media coverage of the pandemic is on every news feed 24/7, pollution-caused deaths remain largely unnoticed. Details here.

Sunday, May 9, 2021


by Larry Powell

I feel I must respond to a column now appearing in some weeklies in Manitoba, (See bottom) “Agriculture, environment and animal care.”
Cam Dahl, Apologist-in-Chief for Manitoba Pork.

What a masterful piece of propaganda from Cam Dahl, GM of Manitoba Pork, the official mouthpiece of an industry that’s become a runaway train in this province! 

He commits so many sins of omission, trying to convince us of the industry's environmental virtues, Lucifer himself must be blushing!

For example;

Recent tests done for the global charity, World Animal Protection, have found “superbug” genes developing in waterways around large pig barns in this province. 

This is huge. Why? 

Because, while we already know people can ingest superbugs either by coming in close contact with infected animals or eating the meat, this surely reveals a previously unknown pathway these harmful organisms can follow to invade our lives. 

It surely makes those who eat fish from the contaminated water, even the crops fertilized with hog slurry, vulnerable. 

Meanwhile, I guess the comprehensive water-monitoring the industry brags about doing, missed this "minor detail!"

Yet, for years, Manitoba Pork has ignored formal requests from Hog Watch Manitoba to initiate a comprehensive water monitoring program. This could settle, once and for all, the age-old debate over how much nutrient is running off fields spread with liquid manure, into surrounding lakes and rivers. It's non-response has been deafening.

So where's your reference to these things, Cam? Did you forget? Did you not know?

A growing threat

And, if nothing’s done (and little is) about “AMR” , it's on track to claim almost 400 thousand Canadian lives by 2050. It occurs when “superbugs” develop in animals and humans which are either resistant or downright immune to treatment. It’s largely because of the immense amounts of antibiotics being used on both humans and animals. (The industrial livestock sector, however, accounts for the lion's share - almost 80%.)

And, if you don’t believe this is happening right here within the murky confines of our own factory “farms,” think again. 

Latest Government of Canada figures show, infection rates everywhere are getting worse. And the amount of drugs Manitoba’s producers are feeding their herds, is apparently trending upward. (These were being given, not just to treat disease, but to prevent it and to make animals grow faster, too. And they include several considered important in human medication.) 

Almost all of these practices spit in the face of experts everywhere who flatly warn, “Stop giving medications of critical importance in treating deadly human infections, to your animals!” 

Propaganda rules!

This industry believes it can mask science with propaganda. Just watch this corporate video (in which I contrast the "company line" with a dose of reality) to find out what I mean.


Humane treatment of animals.

Dahl would have us believe that his industry nobly protects its animals from undue hardship or cruelty. 

This is a lie. 

Since the dawn of the factory “farm,” operators from Manitoba to Malaysia, have confined millions of pregnant sows to tiny steel cages for much of their lives. It’s a terrible fate these defenceless animals have had to endure for too long. 

Now, it’s one they’ll have to suffer for a lot longer. Why? Because the industry is breaking its promise to do away with these “torture chambers” by 2024, three more years from now. Now, it’ll be at least 2029, another eight! 

So, when is a promise not a promise? When the hog industy makes it! 

Government complicity

Dahl must know that he can spout his falsehoods with impunity. That’s because he has enablers in high places. The Government of Manitoba has long-since abandoned it’s sacred duty as a regulator, holding this bloated industry to enlightened standards which once helped protect us and our environment from its excesses. 

In 2017, under the guise of “cutting red tape,” Premier Brian Pallister and his government: 

1. scrapped a requirement that new barns be built with state-of-the-art pollution control equipment; 

2. slashed fire safety standards, making new barns cheaper but probably even more dangerous for thousands of hapless animals who. because there are no exits, get trapped and perish in horrible infernos when they burn down;

3. and now, a government-appointed board is over-riding local councils who have the audacity to reject new barn proposals.                                                                    

And, as if fertilized by their own by-product, pig factories are now popping up like bad weeds, everywhere. Not surprisingly, this is sewing seeds of discontent and division in once-harmonious communities.

Ag Gag laws

Under the guise of protecting farm animals from injury and disease, the Pallister government has introduced new laws. These make provisions that punish activists who may want to demonstrate on "farm" property. Even though there are already laws to protect against trespassing (one MB producer told me himself, an intruder got six months for coming onto his property some years ago), and even though I was unable to pry from this government any actual examples of such harm, they're pressing ahead, anyway. 

These Ag Gag laws are nothing more than an affront to freedom of the press, freedom to protest and democracy itself! Apparently taking his cue from several knuckle-dragging US States, then some copy-cat provinces, these Draconian measures turn common justice upside down. They do nothing to stop industry transgressions which are now “baked in" to its very DNA. Quite the opposite. They penalize those of us with a conscience, who want to expose them!

My favourite TV comic, Bill Mahr, puts an interesting perspective on Ag Gag laws, from the US side, where they all began.


Court Strikes Down Iowa's 'Ag-Gag' Law That Blocked Undercover Investigations

This government has morphed into nothing more than a tawdry puppet for a high-maintenance, assembly-line pork machine which couldn’t exist if it had to operate in ways that are clean, sustainable or decent. 

A high-maintenance industry

Meanwhile, "BigPigInc." fattens its bottom line by sucking money from hard-working taxpayers (in the form of frequent and generous subsidies). If it (rather than you and me) had to pay for the external costs it imposes on our environment, it would surely wither and die.

A few years ago (to give but one example), this government shelled out more than 800 thousand of our tax dollars (a figure I had to drag from the Government though Access to Information) to help the industry deal with largely self-inflicted losses it suffered, battling “Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.” 

PED is as horrible as it sounds. Many piglets, just days old, rapidly dehydrate, then die, vomiting and spewing diarrhea. One producer confided to me, “When PED breaks in a barn, there’s a complete loss of all pigs under 14 days old.” 

So how many died, overall? Well, the government claims it doesn’t know and the industry (surprise, surprise), won’t say. It was an ugly chapter in the history of veterinary medicine. Nor will it be the last. African Swine Fever, possibly the worst disease of hogs known, is knocking on North America’s doorstep as we speak. Once it arrives, even industry sources agree, it’ll be a disaster. Even more troubling is the potential that a disease like NIPAH, harmful to both pigs and humans, might take roots here, too. 

Experts say, the crowded, remorseless conditions which have been the trademark on these “farms” for many years, make it easier for these diseases to run rampant.

A legacy of waste

As all this happens, the Manitoba industry ships well over 90 percent of its product to faraway places, while leaving behind one hundred percent of the shit and offal from eight million animals. That’s now what we citizens here at home are left to cope with, not to mention our waterways, long struggling under the burden of poisonous pollution, and wide-spread eutrophication.

Carcasses ready to be hauled away from a Hutterite Colony in SW Manitoba to a rendering plant in Winnipeg. Scenes like this are not uncommon near the provinces hog factories.
A PinP photo.

One informed industry source estimates some three thousand hogs per week die on the province's hog "farms" before reaching market.

Imported corruption.

Dahl must also know by now that the biggest company MB Pork represents, HyLife Foods, is now controlled by a huge and shady, Thai-based conglomerate, “CP Foods.” Six years ago, the Guardian Newspaper exposed CPF as having links, through its seafood division, to slavery and murder on the high seas.

Premier Pallister, this has happened on your watch! You are responsible for letting corporate sleaze like this in to my province, a sovereign space which ought to be safe for its citizens. You are now apparently beholden to any entity that shows up, bearing money. Are these new corporate arrivals greasing the war-chest of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, just like three of HyLife’s founders were doing for at least a decade before the takeover? I have no idea. But it’s surely a question you, Premier, must answer.

Secret and unaccountable.

My repeated attempts to get comments from Manitoba Pork on stories like this, are met with a stony silence. This opaque agency comes out from under its rock only at the time of its own choosing. It is unaccountable, irresponsible and dangerous. And it seems to have little to fear from a compliant and disinterested media. 

Apparently, in Dahl's mind, sweeping aside the veils of secrecy and exposing these realities, make people like me, “Old MacDonalds,” basking in nostalgia for "the old days." 

If there are no alternatives to Cam Dahl's version of "modern agriculture" (which, of course, there are), God help us all! 


Read Cam Dahl's propaganda piece, below. 



Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Sea level rise is rapid and unstoppable unless Paris Agreement targets met


Aggressive efforts to limit global warming will sharply reduce future sea-level rise, suggests a paper published in Nature. 
Icebergs in Sermilik Fjord, SE Greenland Credit: Donald Slater

A second paper, also published in Nature, indicates that warming of 3 °C could cause sea level to increase by 0.5 cm every year by 2100 as a result of melting Antarctic land ice. The findings provide further insight into the impact of melting land ice on global sea-level rises.

This animation shows the rate at which the ice thickness is changing in meters per year (more red/yellow means faster thinning and thus faster ice loss) as the Antarctic Ice Sheet responds to changes in the atmosphere and ocean due to one potential climate scenario. This simulation, using the BISICLES ice sheet model, represents one of hundreds of such simulations used for this work to characterize ice sheet response to changes in the climate. Credit: Daniel Martin and Courtney Shafer.

Since 1993, land ice has contributed to around half of all global sea-level rise and this contribution is expected to increase as the world warms. The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest land ice reservoir and its ice loss is accelerating. Complex ice sheet models can be used to project the contribution of land ice to sea-level rise, but they require massive computational power and cannot explore all possible outcomes, owing to uncertainties in the projections.

Tamsin Edwards and colleagues use a statistical and computationally efficient approach to emulate the behaviour of more-complex models to project glacier and ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise under a range of scenarios. They find that if the ambitious Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5 °C was met, the contribution of land ice to sea-level rise could be halved by 2100—from the median projected sea-level rise of 25 cm under current climate projections, to 13 cm. The authors also suggest that melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet would fall by around 70% and that the contribution of melting glaciers to sea-level rise would also halve. The authors indicate that there is no clear difference for Antarctica under different emissions scenarios, owing to uncertainties in the competing processes of snowfall accumulation and ice loss. However, if the most extreme ice sheet behaviour is assumed, Antarctic ice loss could be five times higher, which would increase median sea-level rise to 42 cm under current pledges.

In a separate modelling study, Robert DeConto and colleagues find that limiting warming to the Paris Agreement’s alternative target of 2 °C maintains roughly constant Antarctic ice loss at current rates. However, in a scenario with warming of 3 °C—the warming trajectory consistent with current fossil fuel emissions—the authors predict that the rate of ice loss will increase substantially from 2060, triggering sea-level increases of 0.5 cm per year by 2100. Once a threshold of rapid sea-level rise is reached, modelling of optimistic, yet theoretical, approaches to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere shows a reduction, but not cessation, of further sea-level rise over the coming centuries.

The two papers highlight that aggressive efforts to limit global warming will sharply reduce future sea-level rise. For Antarctica, Tamsin Edwards and colleagues find that the complexity of competing processes on the ice sheet make it difficult to make concrete predictions about its future, and Robert DeConto and colleagues show that it is keenly sensitive to warming of 3 °C and greater. Thus, for the largest body of ice on the planet, important uncertainties remain.

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...