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.
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