Showing posts with label Factory Farms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Factory Farms. Show all posts

Friday, 25 May 2018

Special Investigation: How the common agricultural policy promotes pollution - the View From Europe.

The Ecologist.
Almost a trillion Euros in taxpayers' money is handed to EU farmers as part of the Common Agricultural Policy. The money is supposed to leverage environmental practices. But an international team of investigative journalists, today publishing with THE ECOLOGIST, has found the cash actually feeds significant pollution. More here.

Nipah virus outbreak in India 'definitely a concern,' Canadian scientist says

CBC news
Much is unknown about the virus that is spread by bats, but here are some answers. More here.

RELATED: "In Hogs We Trust. Part 3 - the magnitude of disease in the livestock industry."

'It’s wrong to stink up other people’s lives': fighting the manure lagoons of North Carolina

The Guardian
Pigs outstripped people in Duplin county long ago - but now the residents are fighting back. More here.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Agroecology: A better alternative in Sub-Saharan Africa


Two "big rigs" ready to begin work in western Manitoba. PinP photo.
Agroecology is a better alternative than large-scale agriculture, both for the climate and for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to researcher. This agricultural model preserves biodiversity and safeguards food supply while avoiding soil depletion. More here.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

"In Hogs We Trust." Part 1V

Last October, just before the provincial government relaxed regulations to allow for many more hogs to be produced in this province, George Matheson, Chair of the industry group, “Manitoba Pork,” testified before a legislative committee. 

In an astonishing display of corporate hype, Matheson seemed to think he could, with a single statement, obliterate years of solid scientific research, conducted in his own province.

“Hog manure is not getting into our rivers and lakes,” he declared. “The vast majority…about 85 per cent, is injected into the soil of farmland or immediately incorporated into the soil. This method of application essentially stops manure from running off the land. I cannot overemphasize this point. This means manure does not get into rivers and lakes. In fact, it is illegal for manure to leave a field.”  

In her long career with the University of Winnipeg’s biology department, Dr. Eva Pip (below) has come to a dramatically different conclusion. After visiting more than 400 sites in Manitoba and publishing a series of meticulous, detailed studies, the veteran water quality expert has found, “The two land use categories with the highest nitrate concentrations bleeding into adjacent surface waters were urban sewage and livestock/poultry operations.”
Dr. Eva Pip taught biology at the U of W for more than 
50 years before retiring in 2016. She has published almost 
100 peer-reviewed articles in her career. More than 800 scientists in 
serious academic circles around the world have cited her work, 
as a building block for their own.

Nitrates act as nutrients which promote the rapid growth of harmful and often poisonous algae. As Dr. Pip explains, “These mar beaches, overgrow submerged surfaces, clog filters and fishing nets, and foul drinking water with objectionable tastes, odours and toxins. Local fish and invertebrate kills have occurred both in summer and under winter ice.” 

Many big livestock operations, including hog “mega-barns,” have been operating in southern Manitoba for years. This doesn’t make sense to Dr. Pip. “Our provincial government was irresponsibly allowing barns where periodic flooding was very likely, even certain. Since floodwaters flow into Lake Winnipeg, and also to Lake Manitoba via the Portage Diversion, this means that waste affects a very large area, not just the immediately adjacent waters.” Epic flooding in the Red River Valley in 1997 washed a host of human-related contaminants into those lakes, including waste from hog lagoons. 

A study Dr. Pip supervised in 2006, confirmed that three substances harmful to water quality “increased significantly during flooding.” They were, dissolved solids and different forms of the two main nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous. And human and animal waste were also “major factors” directly affecting water quality near the shore at 90 sites she surveyed along the southern half of Lake Winnipeg. Communities of mollusks (snails and native freshwater mussels), considered important indicators of environmental health, were dwindling, and many are endangered. She recommended another look be taken at management policies affecting the lake, in order to “reduce further habitat decline.” 

In 2012, she published another study showing even more clearly, just how baseless Matheson’s testimony was. For an entire ice-free season, she and one of her students took water samples both upstream and downstream of a small hog and poultry operation in southeastern Manitoba. The farm, complete with waste lagoons and fields where the waste was sprayed, was located between the Brokenhead River and one of its tributaries, Hazel Creek. The study detected significantly higher levels of several substances harmful to water quality in the downstream samples, compared to upstream. These included phosphorous, some nitrogen, solids and fecal coliform bacteria, which increased when it rained. “ The study suggested that environmental loading of livestock waste adversely altered natural stream water quality.” And it called for producers to spread manure “during drier weather conditions, to minimize the large-scale escape events.”  

“Our study demonstrated unequivocally," explains Dr. Pip, "that manure was getting into those waterways from the spread fields after the manure had been spread, and not just small amounts either.” 

David Schindler is a Rhodes scholar and 
internationally celebrated scientist, with 
a Ph.D in ecology. He co-authored the 
book, “The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization 
of the World’s Freshwaters and Estuaries.”
The Brokenhead River flows into Lake Winnipeg, the subject of another study published in 2012. Entitled, “The rapid eutrophication of Lake Winnipeg,” it was conducted by a team of researchers headed by another water quality expert, Dr. David Schindler of the University of Alberta (above). It concluded that toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) “have nearly doubled in size in that lake since the mid 1990s,” thanks to rapid increases in phosphorous levels." (See graph.)

What is eutrophication? Harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills are the results of a process called eutrophication, which begins with increased load of nutrients to estuaries and coastal waters. (A NOAA video.)

In 2007, Manitoba's Clean Environment Commission found that hog wastes spread on fields as a nutrient, “constitute the most serious environmental sustainability issues facing the industry.” 
But, could human health be at risk here, too? 

Further research by Dr. Pip less than four years ago, shows that indeed, it could be. It found a dangerous neurotoxin called BMAA at three places near the shore of Lake Winnipeg’s south basin. Levels of it were found to increase significantly after heavy “blooms” of the blue-green algae and when solids were suspended in the water. BMAA is found worldwide, wherever the algae are found. It has been linked to human ailments including Parkinson’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It has also been found in the hair and brain tissue of Canadian Alzheimer’s patients.

There are several troubling pathways humans could be exposed to this toxin. These include consuming the milk or meat of livestock or waterfowl who’ve drunk tainted water in dugouts or wetlands, or even bathing in it! Of the three locations studied, the highest levels were found at Patricia Beach, a popular spot for bathers.

As bad as they sound, BMAA toxins are not the end of the story, as Dr. Pip explains. “We found other more important algal toxins in Lake Winnipeg (microcystins, anatoxins) that are much more immediate and potent, and these should be mentioned. We found that microcystins were related to phosphorus and nitrogen in the water. They can be inhaled, absorbed through skin, or ingested.  

A dog swims in a poison 

soup of blue-green algae.

They've been known to sicken people and kill animals. Many communities as well as cottagers draw their drinking water from the lake.” Coliform bacteria (such as E coli) were also associated with phosphorus levels. 
Despite all this, Premier Brian Pallister, like the industry, seems more than willing to simply write off all those years of collective scientific wisdom. When announcing last spring his government would relax important environmental regulations so thousands more hogs could be produced in Manitoba, he told reporters, “There’s no compelling evidence that any of these changes will put water at risk."
Lake Winnipeg with Reindeer Island at bottom right. 
European Space Agency.
Meanwhile, Lake Winnipeg (above), the world's 10th largest freshwater lake, gets increasingly polluted with algal blooms that can be seen from space. 

And, a report commissioned by the Government of Manitoba in 2011 concluded that phosphorous levels in the lake were “three times higher than they were in Lake Erie when that lake was described as dead!”

What about water quantity?

Quite apart from the role big hog operations play in harming the quality of our water, is the question of the volumes needed to water the livestock and clean the barns. The amounts are staggering. Figures on volumes already being consumed are hard to come by. But we are already getting a taste of what an expanded industry will look like. Applications are now pouring in for new barns and permission to expanded existing ones. The big pork processing company, HyLife alone, has applied to build no less than 16 big barns, housing some 50,000 hogs in the RM of Killarney, in the southwest. The company estimates all those barns, together, will require something like 48,000,000 imperial gallons per year! (218,212,320  litres!) The hogs will produce well over 31 million gallons of slurry, to be stored in several new earthen lagoons the company proposes to dig. The water will come from new wells. The barns are to be located in the Pembina River watershed and built on land which is currently in crop production. 

While Canada is not at the top of the list of the many countries now threatened by water shortages, can we afford to ignore the warning signs? As the Guardian newspaper  reports, “Across the globe, huge areas are in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up.”

And almost everywhere, animal agriculture plays a role. As the Dutch-based “Water Footprint Network”puts it, “Animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products.” While cattle require the most water of all livestock, pigs still need almost six thousand (5,988) litres to produce a single kilogram of pork!

What about the stink?

But are the threats being posed by the Pallister government's crusade to expand the hog industry, confined to our waterways only? What about the stench produced by massive quantities of hog manure? The industry claims, expansion will do little to worsen that problem.

Yet odours from intensive livestock operations nationwide, have been recognized as a problem in Canada for well over 20 years. In its “Handbook on Health Impacts,” (2004), Health Canada notes, “Among all the animal production sectors, hog farming, given its constant growth since the 1970s and its expansion in many rural and even near-urban areas, is often publicly perceived as one of the most polluting agricultural activities. The number of complaints about odours from animal production operations has increased sharply since the 1970s, mainly because of the transition from solid (manure) to liquid (slurry) waste management. As a result, in 1995, odours from buildings and slurry storage facilities were 5.2 times stronger than they were in 1961; and odours from spreading activities were 8.2 times stronger.”

But hog barn odours can be more than just a nuisance. The Handbook warns that gases including ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane can not only irritate the eyes and upper respiratory tract, they can, in high enough concentrations, be lethal. “Half of all cases of severe manure gas poisoning are fatal,” it states. “And a few farm workers in Canada die from such poisoning each year,” usually while cleaning out confined spaces such as manure gutters below the barns.

Hard figures are not available. But it's believed, in Manitoba, more slurry is now injected directly into the ground, 
rather than being spread above-ground, as is being done here on farmland near Lake Erie, US in 2014.

"In Hogs We Trust."  

A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Suffocation of 1500 pigs another sign of perils of Industrial Style Hog Barns

Sows in steel crates.
(Winnipeg) - Hog Watch Manitoba has learned of a recent incident in which all of the 1500 pigs in one barn suffocated when the ventilation system failed. Most pigs raised in this province live in closed barns on slatted floors above pits containing their own urine and feces. This creates high levels of ammonia and sulfur dioxide. If the ventilation system in the barn fails the buildup of noxious gases in combination with lack of oxygen causes suffocation within a couple of hours.
“This is simply one more example of the inhumane conditions that we are forcing these animals to live in” says Vicki Burns, Hog Watch Manitoba. “We have contacted Manitoba Pork to ask for information about this incident but have received no response to date. Without cooperation of industry we are not able to determine what caused this problem but it may be related to the deterioration of fire safety as the alarm system obviously failed.”
Hog Watch Manitoba is calling on the industry to significantly change the way animals are housed. If the animals were housed in open air barns on straw rather than slatted floors above pits containing their own waste, these horrible deaths would not have occurred.
Hog Watch Manitoba is a coalition of farmers, environmentalists, friends of animals and concerned public who are promoting a more sustainable way of raising pigs in Manitoba.
For More Information Contact:
Vicki Burns, 204-489-3852
Fred Tait, 204-252-2153

Sunday, 25 February 2018

'Dirty meat':Shocking hygiene failings discovered in US pig and chicken plants


Previously unseen government records detail 'deeply worrying' incidents in pork and poultry plants, raising fears of 'dirty meat' entering the UK under a post-Brexit trade deal. Story here.

Photo-Erdei Catalin
RELATED: "In Hogs We Trust"  The Manitoba Story.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Animal health and welfare, two cornerstones of sustainable, responsible and effective food production

ILRI news

Improved animal health and welfare standards can also increase food production in ways that protect the environment and enhance the resilience of livestock producers and systems. More here.

Hogs see the sun and get fresh air on an "outdoor" 
farm in the UK. Photo credit - Andy & Hilary.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

50+ Groups Back Landmark Effort to Halt 'Out of Control' Factory Farming in Iowa

"Iowa is suffering under the enormous weight of a business that has no respect for the people, environment, animals and future of the state." Story here.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

In Hogs We Trust - Part 111.

by Larry Powell 

(Warning, the words and images in this story are graphic.)

We all know that farm animals can get sick. But how many of us are aware of just how damaging animal epidemics can be - whether on the other side of the world or on our own doorstep? They can and do cause huge economic losses and harm to the health of animals and humans, alike. And, there’s ample evidence that, for generations, the model we’ve been using to raise animals in confined, crowded conditions, only magnifies the problems. So why is the Manitoba government  prepared to risk even more of the same by massively expanding pork production in a province with an already-large industry? I hope this part of my series will move you, the reader, to ask, “How much worse must things get, before we change course?” 

Losses suffered globally due to diseases of livestock, are staggering. As the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) note, "Some of the most lethal bugs affecting humans originate in our domesticated animals. Thirteen of these (formally called “zoonotics”) are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. As more pigs and poultry are raised in concentrated spaces, especially in poorer countries, the risk of zoonotic disease rises. 

While the vast majority (of human casualties) are in low-and middle-income countries, the northeastern U.S. has emerged as a ‘hotspot,’ too!” Whatever the case, the authoritative Centers for Disease Contol in the States reminds us, we in developed countries, cannot afford to be complacent. On its website, the CDC proclaims, "We are living in an interconnected world where an outbreak of infectious disease is just a plane ride away." 

UPDATE: May 20, 2018:

It has recently been reported that the rare virus called Nipah has re-emerged in southern India, killing at least 11 people and causing more than 25 others to be hospitalized. Although global health officials consider that, so far, to be a relatively small outbreak, they’re worried. And while no cases have been reported in Canada, scientists with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have expressed similar concerns. Nipah is on the World Health Organization’s priority list of emerging diseases that could cause a global pandemic, alongside Zika and Ebola.

In 1999, Nipah killed more than a hundred people in Malaysia and sickened almost 300 others. While fruit bats had probably been the initial carriers, the victims had all worked closely with pigs, which acted as intermediate hosts. To prevent the spread of the disease, more than a million hogs were euthanized, inflicting tremendous economic losses on the Malaysian economy. 

Some of the diseases referred to here, including Nipah, have been known to infect those who take part in the Raaj, the largest annual religious pilgrimages in the world, where animals are sometimes sacrificed. 

While “zoonotics” have not been as common in Canada as elsewhere, the same cannot be said for diseases deadly to hogs - outbreaks which have proven - for much of North America - to be nothing short of rampant. 

In 2004, Canadian hog producers found themselves in the middle of a "major animal-health crisis, worldwide." A new variant of a disease called "Porcine CircoVirus-2 Associated Disease," (PCVAD), had infected Ontario’s swine herds with a vengeance. It seemed to closely resemble a strain that had been first identified in Saskatchewan 20 years earlier. And, not long before the Ontario outbreak, a similar kind disrupted pork production in parts of Asia and Europe, too. 

Lesions “of unprecedented severity” were inflaming the intestines, blood vessels, kidneys and spleen of Ontario herds. In some, fully half the pigs died. PCVAD had become “the dominant strain” infecting barns in both Ontario and Quebec. One study in the journal, “Veterinary Pathology” states, “In the space of less than two decades, this virus has gone from being a provincial oddity to one of the most economically important infectious agents in modern swine production.”

As the outbreak swept on to western Canada, animals were developing rasping coughs, diarrhea, pneumonia, fluid on the lungs, then dying. Within a few years, almost all of Canada’s pig farms had tested positive. As Ottawa put it at the time, “It severely affected the health and livelihood of the Canadian swine industry. Hundreds of producers faced financial ruin and pork processors laid off hundreds of staff. By 2009, the economic impact on the industry in North America had been estimated at more than $500m.” 

When it ended, PCVAD had claimed about 9% of this country’s swine herds. Based on a hog population of about 15 million at the time, we must have lost some 1.35 million animals. By 2007, the federal government had stepped in. At the request of producers, Ottawa gave them more than $62 million to help with the costs of an inoculation program. The government proclaimed, “The hog industry is (now) better prepared to face disease threats.”  

But, is it?

Last spring, another disease deadly to pigs moved into Manitoba, disrupting the industry to a degree perhaps not seen since the crisis 13 years earlier. Ominously dubbed “Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea” (PED), it infected hogs in scores of barns in southeastern Manitoba. Despite frantic efforts by barn owners and workers to control the infection, it had, by summer, found its way onto 90 farms. At this writing, 42 of those are now described as “PED-free,” once again. But these gains have come at a price. Industry sources confirm, during the struggle to contain the disease, it had become so rampant, and stress levels so high among workers trying to contain it, they were developing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. That’s what our veterans get in combat! There have been no new cases since October. So, is the worst behind us? Or is the epidemic just “in remission?” 

 A recent study by the University of Manitoba suggests, eradicating the disease won’t be easy. The virus can become airborne and spread on the wind for up to 18 kilometres. It can also withstand cold weather, be spread by livestock trucks, and survive for up to nine months in the earthen storage lagoons which producers use to store the waste. That waste, called slurry, is often spread on farm fields as a fertilizer. (An American expert even says, a single tablespoon may be potent enough to infect tens of millions of animals.) 

No hard numbers are publicly available on just how many pigs the outbreak has claimed. But an official said, at one point during the summer, almost a million were under surveillance. 

PED causes the animals to spew watery vomit from one end and diarrhea from the other. (See above.) While some adults can survive, almost all infected piglets become severely dehydrated and die on about their fifth day. 

In another part of the world, the European Union, at this writing, was on high alert. After an absence of decades, a deadly viral disease called African Swine Fever (ASF) “re-invaded” three years ago. It is threatening both EU farm pigs and wild boar, who are believed to carry the disease. Despite heroic attempts by Lithuania, an EU country, to keep it at bay along its border with Belarus, the fever moved in. Then, it swept westward into Poland, the Czech Republic and three Baltic States.  
Infected herds must be culled. 
Photo credit - Science Magazine.
In Estonia, 22 thousand hogs had to be destroyed. Pork prices collapsed and more than a third of Estonia’s hog farms went out of business. The disease is now raising alarm in hog-producing countries like Denmark and Germany. With pork exports there worth billions, the stakes are high. That’s because any country where an infection is confirmed, might lose those markets.
The swelling around the kidneys and the muscle hemorrhages 
shown here as typical of pigs with African swine fever. 
Photo by Karen Apicelli USDA.
ASF was first reported in domestic pigs in eastern Africa in 1921. It is harmless to humans. But it kills up to 90% of pigs. They start to bleed inside. Blood sometimes gushes from their ears and flanks. Their lungs fill with fluids. They lose their appetite and energy, abort their young and die, suddenly, within ten days. The virus spreads through the secretions of sick animals. It can survive for long periods on workers’ clothes or hay, helping it move from farm to farm. It can travel even farther when contaminated pork is transported. Pigs or wild boar become infected if they eat the scraps. 
Below is a video depicting the seriousness of ASF, produced by the European Food Authority.

In a different part of the world, “Public Health England” (PHE), a government agency, has recently estimated that up to 200 thousand residents of England and Wales are being infected each year with Hepatitis E (HepE), mainly from eating undercooked meat, including pork. HepE is often not serious, but can sometimes cause liver failure in pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems. There are conflicting reports on the seriousness of some 60 cases over the summer, traced to imported pork products sold at a major London supermarket. PHE claimed the risk to the public was small, although newspaper accounts at the time, stated there had, indeed, been serious illnesses. The HepE strain responsible has been on the increase in the area since 2010. 

In 2001, a research team in this country concluded, “Hepatitis E is highly prevalent in commercial swine populations in Canada and…may be an important zoonotic agent for humans.” Those findings, however, have since been disputed, or at least played down. 

Officials here in Manitoba have, correctly, been informing the public that the PED virus (responsible for the current outbreak here), “is not a human health or food safety concern.” 

But research by experts at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech did note that PED is also a coronavirus. That’s a family of pathogens, other members of which are “known to infect humans and other animals and cause respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.” The three PED strains they isolated, likely evolved from bats in China. This, they conclude, “provides further support of the... potential for cross-species transmission.”

The lead author of that study, Dr. X.J. Meng, in an interview with me, hotly denied any suggestion that PED might cross over into humans. 

So, while PED is not a “zoonotic,” the same cannot be said for other coronaviruses.

One of them, “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” (MERS), claimed human lives in dozens of countries in and around the Arabian Peninsula after being confirmed in 2012. Humans can get it by drinking unpasteurized camels’ milk.

And another coronavirus, “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), took many lives in an epidemic in 2003, including 44 Canadians. Although the literature does not reveal any connection to hogs, much about the disease remains a mystery. These outbreaks (MERS and SARS), add the American researchers, “create further anxiety over the emergence of PED in the United States.” 

Early in 2009, the infamous “Swine flu” (H1N1) was first detected in Mexico.  By June of that year, the World Health Organization stopped counting cases and declared the outbreak a “pandemic.” When it was all over, human fatalities probably stood at about 285 thousand, mostly in Africa and southeast Asia. While the WHO still fears the disease may pose some threats in certain regions, it has declared it is now in a “post-pandemic period.”

Despite protests from hog producers and some politicians over the name, “Swine Flu” is not a misnomer. While it cannot be spread by eating pork, the virus contains five genes that normally circulate in pigs and is now considered a human influenza virus. Hogs infected with it were also found in three other countries, including Canada. And, yet another virus “of swine origin” was isolated in three people in Saskatchewan in 2010. All worked at the same large hog operation. 

So, are we taking livestock diseases seriously enough?

As the CDC cautions, "The more animals are kept in close quarters, the more likely it is that infection or bacteria can spread among them. Concentrated animal feeding operations or large industrial animal farms can cause a myriad of environmental and public health problems?"
Unlike "ILOs," animals on this family farm in Manitoba get to bask in the sun,
breathe fresh air and roam in spacious pastures. 
PinP photo.
And who will compensate for the huge economic losses which are sure to follow? Three guesses....


June 2nd, 2018,,,AN INDUSTRY UPDATE......
PEDv update: 6 confirmed cases in Southeastern Manitoba

There are now six confirmed PED cases in Southeast Manitoba in the 2018 outbreak, including three finisher operations, two sow operations and one nursery operation. Biocontainment is in place on these premises.

Manitoba Pork and the Chief Veterinary Office strongly recommend enhanced biosecurity steps be taken on all premises and by all stakeholders in the area bounded on the West by PTH 75, North by PR 210, East by PTH 12, and South by Rd 34 N.
This recommendation is meant to provide easily recognizable boundaries for all involved. Consult your veterinarian on enhanced biosecurity protocols that can be implemented on your premises.

In the 2017 outbreak, we currently have 68 premises which have reached Presumptive Negative status, 11 Transitional status sites and one Positive status site.

RELATED: "In Hogs We Trust."  

Larry Powell lives in Shoal Lake, where he publishes  Larry has served briefly as a member of the environmental monitoring group, Hog Watch Manitoba.
POSTSCRIPT: I have gleaned the above information from the most reliable sources I can find - government agencies, world health authorities, scientific research studies published in peer-reviewed journals and, in some cases, industry itself. But please consider this a “sampling,” rather than a complete chronicle. l.p.

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