(Winnipeg July 14,2022) – Hog Watch Manitoba supports the goals of Amy Sorrano and Nick Schafer, convicted animal rights activists. They have asked that cameras be installed in intensive confinement hog barns in order to monitor how pigs are being treated in these huge facilities.
Currently, there is no way for the public or concerned citizens to ensure that pigs are being treated humanely or to even understand how the pigs are being raised.
Entry into the barns is tightly controlled for biosecurity and public relation reasons.
“The hog industry has good reason to keep their barn doors tightly closed” says Vicki Burns, Hog Watch Manitoba Steering committee member, “They know that many of the public would be disgusted by how these animals are forced to live, crammed in with hundreds of animals, above pits of their urine and feces, breathing in toxic gases rising from the manure pits.”
Hog Watch Manitoba advocates for the industry to shift to more humane conditions for the animals which includes fewer animals housed together and straw-based barns. The manner in which the animals are housed now amounts to institutionalized cruelty because of the lifelong chronic suffering the animals experience, never getting outside, no straw or pasture to root in, tails docked because of being tightly packed in with other pigs, adult female pigs confined in gestation stalls their entire adult lives.
Hog Watch Manitoba does not support criminal activities but efforts to show the public how pigs are kept is essential to shifting consumers and the industry away from factory raised pork.
“ If the public knew the facts, as consumers they may make different purchasing choices and that’s bad news for the hog industry. Cruelty to support profits is not acceptable. Positive changes can be made in the housing of pigs and still have a viable industry”.
Hogs at the tail end of misguided provincial planning allowing intensive hog operations on flood plains.
“Where is the wisdom allowing these type of operations to be built on flood plains” says Janine Gibson long time member of HOG WATCH who resides among the heaviest concentration of these operations in Southeastern Manitoba.
As a known flood plain, the Red River Valley experienced severe floods in 1997, 2009, 2011 and now again, this year.
“What on earth was the province thinking when the moratorium was lifted to allow these massive hog operations to further expand. Now we face increasing amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into the watershed,” she adds.
In 2017 the provincial Conservative government removed key sections in the Environment Act that restricted new hog barn development on known floodplains.
Recent aerial photos from HOG WATCH clearly show hog operations and fields within a vast sea of water covering thousands of acres routinely used for hog manure spread fields. HOG WATCH members touring some of the flooded areas were assaulted by the stench of hog manure as it washed over the flooded land.
Bill Massey, who raises sustainable pigs for private use and has been contesting a large hog operation in Rock Lake Colony near Grosse Isle Manitoba for over 18 years, says the math is simple;
“Much of the manure spread last Fall will be carried away this spring as soils become saturated. Phosphorus and nitrogen have not had time to be taken up by any crops and tons will be carried into our rivers and lakes as well as other bacteria, feeding toxic blue-green algae blooms this summer.”
Typically hog manure is either injected into the soil or spread onto fields as nutrients for crops. Excessive manure can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli or and viruses causing groundwater contamination and fish kills.
Janie Gibson sums up this way, “The time has passed where pursuing profit at any cost to Manitoba’s environment makes sense. It doesn’t! Manitoba is the largest hog producing province per population in Canada and the government takes pride in its plans for more intensive hog industry growth. This has to end!”
Hog Watch Manitoba is a non-profit coalition of environmentalists, farmers, animal welfare and social justice advocates, trade unions and scientists that promotes a hog industry in Manitoba that is ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.
For more information and to arrange an interview:
Vicki Burns 204-489-3852 Save Lake Winnipeg Project and Hog Watch MB Bill Massey 204-467-9122 Concerned Citizens of Grosse Isle and Hog Watch MB Janine Gibson 204-434-6018 Organic Food Council and Hog Watch MB
(Winnipeg April 27, 2022) – Hog Watch Manitoba is asking for help for rural residents whose lives are negatively impacted by noxious odours from neighbouring hog barns. Those bad smells are not just a nuisance but can contain toxic gases that have human health impacts.
“Hog Watch Manitoba recently purchased a hydrogen sulfide gas monitoring device ACRULOG H2S to measure gases causing foul smells for rural residents” says Vicki Burns, Hog Watch Manitoba spokesperson. “We don’t have any government support like the inspectors who take measurements in the city. The Manitoba government seems to expect rural residents to put up with it as a routine cost of living in the country”.
Recent readings from one location near a hog barn have documented high levels of hydrogen sulfide. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) exposure to hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. It can also cause apnea, coma, convulsions; dizziness, headache, weakness, irritability, insomnia; stomach upset.
Over the years Hog Watch Manitoba has heard many stench related complaints from rural residents. “We felt that we needed to collect actual data to prove that this is a legitimate health concern and not simply a nuisance. We are asking the province of Manitoba to require odour mitigation measures around all factory hog barns in Manitoba” explains Janine Gibson, Secretary of Hog Watch Manitoba. “This is an interim measure until we can shift the industry to smaller, straw-based barns that are environmentally sustainable, treat the animals and the human workers in a more ethical manner and are economically stable”.
Hog Watch Manitoba is a coalition of farmers, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates, scientists and rural residents who are advocating for a move away from industrial factory style barns to smaller straw-based farms that are environmentally, ethically, and economically sustainable. Hog Watch Manitoba - What's the Big Stink?
Many well-informed, dedicated and concerned individuals produced this video in 2008. Sadly, their warnings about the dirty and dangerous consequences of unregulated factory "farming" in Manitoba have not been heeded. The industry has been given free-rein and continues to expand with few, if any checks and balances. The video is less than an hour long. I implore you to take the time to watch! If you did see it before, perhaps it will remind you again of just how grave these issues really are. If you have not, I know it will concern you, too - perhaps even inspire you to take action of your own. Thank you!
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.
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.
GOVERNMENTS INVEST IN "INNOVATION" TO "HELP INCREASE COMPETITIVENESS AND SUSTAINABILITY OF PORK PRODUCERS"
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.
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 www.worldanimalprotection.ca.
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.
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, billmassey.ca.
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.
The following letter by Jon Crowson appeared recently in the Empire Advance, a weekly newspaper in Virden, Manitoba. It's his response to an article which appeared earlier in the same paper (see bottom).
Hog Barn Saturation.
Thanks for the primer on the provinces hog industry (Empire Advance, June 4, 2021). Frankly I’m not sure I really needed one.
This map, from the industry itself, shows hog barn locations as they were n 2007. How many are enough?
When the big guns from Manitoba Pork seek a meeting with council (even if they don’t have to leave their own boardroom to do it), one can’t help but be suspicious about their motives. Could it be that recent decisions, such as Cartwright-Roblin council to reject a new barn proposal, has got them worried? Worried that the tide is turning against the takeover of our rural areas by “Big Pork”.
When it comes to new factory hog barn proposals the concerns of nearby residents cover the gamut from the stink (sufficient to breech the International Treaty on Chemical Warfare), to ground and surface water pollution, to air pollution involving some serious greenhouse gases, to huge amounts of water consumed, to health concerns, to the noise from barn fans, to loss in property values. Then there are all the ethical and animal welfare issues around raising animals in confinement, never to see the light of day, with an almost certain death sentence in the event of a fire.
Artist's rendering by John Fefchak.
We should not be surprised that the Cartwright-Roblin council rejected the proposal by the wholly foreign owned HyLife Corporation for an 18,000 weanling hog operation. The willingness of certain other councils to approve such applications, and in so doing throw some of their own residents under the bus, is nothing short of shameful. There is a safeguard in our Planning Act, with guidance to councils, (Section 106(1) Re: “Decision”) which indicates that you might consider approving the application only if it: “(b)(ii) will not be detrimental to the health or general welfare of people living or working in the surrounding area, or negatively affect other properties or potential development in the surrounding area”. If that clause were taken seriously, it’s difficult to understand how any of these factory hog barns gets approved. I have had the dubious privilege of living with a factory hog barn as an upwind neighbour for a good many years now, and can assure you that it absolutely does not pass that test.
The Pallister government in its headlong rush to enable unfettered factory hog barn expansion has tossed out many of the protections to the environment that were formerly in place, in the guise of “red tape reductions” as well as lowering the construction standards for barns. This will doubtless come back to haunt us in years to come as the impacts of this pollution are compounded. Let’s face it the provinces Technical Review Committee, which is supposed to thoroughly vet applications for new barns, is now little more than a rubber stamp in favour of the barn proponent. As a result of Bill 19 we now also face the spectre of a barn developer appealing a council rejection to the Municipal Board, an un-elected body hand picked from the party faithful, to do the bidding of the current government and overrule the duly elected local council. There is a very bad smell associated with that prospect also.
Mr. Dahl talks about growth in the hog industry. I recall my old and wise “Economics 101” prof reminding us students never to confuse the terms “economic growth” with “economic development”.
Growth being an increase in wealth (usually in the hands of the few), and development being increased prosperity and quality of life for all residents. Councils would do well to ponder the difference.
Significant portions of our rural areas are becoming unlivable due to the proliferation of factory hog barns. How many more do we need, and what kind of mess are we creating for future generations?
Jon Crowson. Hamiota.
A primer on the province’s hog industry
Lindsay White / Virden Empire-Advance
June 4, 2021 12:35 AM
Cam Dahl, General Manager of Manitoba Pork, and Manager of Planning and Sustainable
Development Grant Melnychuk reached out virtually to R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth Councillors to
share information regarding the current state of the province’s hog production and processing
industries. Their organization represents the more than 600 commercial hog producers in Manitoba.
“Really, what we’re here to do is start a dialogue,” Dahl said. “We want to talk about some of the
benefits of and concerns about the industry. This isn't related to any specific projects. We're not aware
of any specific projects that might be in the works.”
Appearing as a delegation at the May 27 meeting, Dahl and Melnychuk provided Council with a
variety of facts and figures supporting the hog industry’s strong contribution to the provincial
economy. It involves about 14,000 direct and indirect jobs, and approximately $1.7 billion annually.
With over 600 barns, Manitoba stands behind Quebec as the second largest producer in the country.
Product is currently exported to over 24 countries.
Since the lifting of a provincial moratorium on hog industry expansion in 2017, over $100 million in
private investment has been approved across the province. Both executives see opportunity for
significant growth in the post-pandemic economy, which could have major spinoff benefits in rural
“There's opportunities, for growth, there's benefits to growth, but we appreciate that when new barn
proposals are made that municipalities have questions and the general public will often raise concerns,”
Melnychuk said. They include odour control, manure management and the impact of a barn operation
on ground water and the values of neighbouring properties. Melnychuk told councillors that efforts are
made to mitigate each of these issues and indicated that Manitoba Pork encourages proponents of new
hog barns to have informed discussions with their respective municipal councils prior to the application
process taking place.
Dahl told Council that the province has some of the strictest environmental standards for hog
operations on the continent, and operators must be part of a universal code of practice in order to ship
their animals to federally inspected processing plants.
“There are regulations in place and significant industry standards enforced through auditing. If you’re
not participating in the program, you cannot deliver your pigs,” he said. He added that operators also
need to be able to demonstrate their ability to sustainably take care of manure.
During the discussion, Coun. Barb Stambuski questioned whether planting of a three-row shelterbelt on
each site was being enforced. “We have been hearing about it for 20 plus years,” she said. “We haven't
seen a good shelterbelt in our area – yet.” She also pointed to lacklustre maintenance of what was
already in place. “There have been huge holes, and nothing has been done.”
“That's one of the things we will take back to our members,” Dahl responded. “It's not just the
development plan but the ongoing maintenance of that development plan as well.”
On the subject of water, Coun. Stambuski explained that as the municipal system is nearing capacity,
any new barns are not likely to be allowed to hook up. Melnychuk stressed that the presence of
adequate water, either from a nearby ground or municipal treated source, is a critical part of the
application and review process which proponents need to address.
“Where there is treated water and capacity, barns do access it,” he said. “In others, they will utilize
ground water if there is a suitable source that can be found. If it (the municipal system) is nearing
capacity and there is no potential for expansion, that would certainly be a limiting factor of new barns
siting in your location. If there is potential for expansion, and a new hog facility could contribute in that
manner, then that could be considered as well.”
Coun. Stambuski asked about compensation for those experiencing an estimated -5% reduction in their
property value due to the proximity of a barn operation.
“That would be part of the siting process,” Dahl said. “We would hope that when they're doing their
site selection, they're not going to choose an area where there's neighbours within that 2 km area. If
they do, I'd be surprised if you approve it, quite frankly.”
“Separation distance is key, and it’s one of the first things I flag,” Melnychuk said. He said that it is
imperative that proponents satisfy the requirements of the municipal zoning by-law in considering
where to develop. “If they're not meeting the setbacks of your municipal zoning by-law, I would
caution them from even pursuing it,” he said.
Dahl and Melnychuk plan to meet with other municipal councils to apprise them of the latest
happenings in their industry.
“Our goal is to reach out across the province and have these conversations where there might be
potential for development,” he concluded.
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!
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!”
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!
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.
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 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.
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!
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.