Showing posts sorted by relevance for query in hogs we trust part 1 "In Hogs We Trust." Part 1. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query in hogs we trust part 1 "In Hogs We Trust." Part 1. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, 6 July 2020

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell

No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely, 
defeating this "beast" has to be "Priority One." But, once it ends, and it will, here’s another key question that needs answering. Are we flirting with more such tragedies down the road if we do not soon end our love affair with an industrial, factory-style model of meat production? 
Six years ago, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, a Canadian, Dr. Margaret Chan (above), delivered this positively prophetic message to an Asian investment conference. 

“The industrialization of food production is an especially worrisome trend. Confined animal feeding operations are not farms any more. They are protein factories with multiple hazards for health and the environment."
                                      Photo credit - Mercy for Animals, Manitoba

"These hazards come from the crowding of large numbers of animals in very small spaces, the stressful conditions that promote disease, the large quantities of dangerous waste, the need for frequent human contact with the animals.” 

The "farms" Dr. Chan was describing have been operating in North America  and Europe for decades and, more recently, in Asia, too. In much of the world, they're called "CAFOs," or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. In Canada, they're known as "ILOs," or Intensive Livestock Operations. 

China now produces more pork in this way than the rest of the world, combined!

Most scientists view wet food markets - where both wild and tame animals are sold, alive or dead - as hotspots for the emergence of new viruses that could spark the next influenza pandemic. (It is widely believed that the current Covid-19 pandemic originated at such a market in Wuhan, China.) Health authorities also say, as many as three out of every four new diseases emerging in the world today, result from close contact between humans and animals, either wild or domesticated.

The pandemic we are now struggling with, surely focuses (or should focus) renewed attention on this traditional livestock model, now being rapidly expanded right here in my home province, Manitoba. 

First, Covid 19 is a coronavirus, a family of infectious diseases. So, too is PEDv (or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus).  PEDv killed countless piglets in the big hog barns of Manitoba in recent years. (I say countless because the industry won’t say how many and the Government - which sees its role as an enabler of the industry's business success - not as a regulator - claims it doesn’t know.) 

The epidemic cost provincial taxpayers at least $800 thousand dollars to combat. But this figure did not come freely. I had to launch an "access to information" request in order to pry it from the secretive fist of this Conservative government.

It’s believed Covid 19 originated with bats in China. So, it is thought, did PEDv. The difference is that Covid 19 “spilled over” into the human population, while PEDv has not. 

At least, not yet!

According to the Centers for Disease Control in the US, “Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are Covid 19, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).”

No one knows for sure whether PEDv will “morph” into something that will attack people. And that is precisely why we need credible, comprehensive and, above-all, independent research to at least identify and quantify the risk, once and for all. 

And I don’t mean the kind that’s now taking place at the University of Manitoba, which appears to be anything but. There, researchers, with hefty financial input from the pork industry in no less than seven provinces, are studying “pig foot printing.” 

So, just what does that mean? Far from looking into the industry’s profound and often negative impacts on the environment, or on human and animal health and welfare, the project shamelessly flaunts itself as a way to “advance the profitability of the Canadian swine sector” and “promote competitiveness.”

Does this sound like an initiative that will get to the bottom of any future health risks which it may pose to you and me?

Attempts by the citizen’s group, HogWatch Manitoba (HWM), to get more details about the research (i.e. whether it will find out how much industry pollution is leaking into waterways, for example), have fallen on deaf ears. So too, has the group's offer to provide input into the research. 

That a place of higher learning like the UofM should sign off on such a questionable project is surely nothing less than a grotesque conflict-of-interest.

For Manitoba, sadly, this looks like just another bit of "the old normal."


"In Hogs We Trust." Part 111

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Drug resistance likely to kill 400,000 Canadians by 2050, report predicts

CBC News
Superbugs are likely to kill nearly 400,000 Canadians and cost the economy about $400 billion in gross domestic product over the next 30 years, warns a landmark report.  Story here.
A Canstock photo image.
PinP: As is too often the case, a big piece of the information puzzle is left out of stories such as this. Antibiotics have been overused almost everywhere in the world for a long time, often to raise animals for food. Among other things, it makes them grow faster and fattens them up to fetch a better price at market time. Yet governments forge ahead, like Manitoba's is doing, to expand the very style of livestock production that spawns such problems. 
Please read:


Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The smell, the noise, the dust: my neighbour, the factory farm

The Guardian
Industrial farms are spreading across Europe. Greenpeace campaigners went to talk to the people who live close by.Warning: readers may find some of the images upsetting. Story here.
Dead hogs in a dumpster at a Manitoba factory barn,
awaiting removal to an unknown location. A PinP photo.
Please also read -"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s runaway hog industry.

Monday, 18 February 2019

African swine fever (ASF) would be a disaster

There is a ‘clear risk’ the swiftly spreading disease could come here, says leading swine health vet

By Alexis Kienlen FOLLOW
Reporter Alberta farmer - February 11, 2019
These red spots are typical of African swine fever.  
A Wikimedia photo.
There is a real risk that the African swine fever virus could enter Canada — and if it did, it would be catastrophic, says one of the country’s leading swine health experts.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Factory Farms Pollute the Environment and Poison Drinking Water

The polar opposite of a factory farm.
A pig herder in Romania.
Photo by PetrS.
Hog waste can contain potentially dangerous pathogens, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. 
Story here.


                                                   "In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

By Larry Powell.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Mayor denies news report that a controversial Manitoba hog barn northwest of Brandon has been declared "legal." Newspaper rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias.

by Larry Powell
What the fuss is all about. A PinP photo.
The mayor of the RM of Yellowhead, Don Yanick is denying yesterday's headline story in the local newspaper, Crossroads This Week,  (see CTW story, below). It reads, "Hog Barn Found to be Legal." First of all, says Yanick, Council will not be declaring the operation "legal," even if an inspection clears the owner. (It will simply be allowed to proceed.) So, the bottom line is, the matter is still pending and will be discussed again at the next council meeting on Oct. 23rd.

The building in question is a "finisher barn," where mature hogs are prepared for market. It's located in the eastern part of the RM, near the Village of Strathclair. It became controversial when the citizens' group, Hogwatch Manitoba, brought a formal complaint in September to the Yellowhead council.

The complaint alleged the owner, Wim Verbruggen, had built a larger barn than stated in his original application for a building permit, bypassing several regulations and bylaws in the process. Ruth Pryzner of Hogwatch says there should have been a public hearing and provincial technical review. Neither was held. She also questioned whether proper procedures have been taken to ensure adequate manure storage and water management. She called on the RM to take punitive action, including possible closure.

But Yanick tells PinP, Verbruggen has since assured council the number of animals he intended to raise in a larger, approved building meets legal requirements. On the basis of that assurance, Yanick says it appears the owner "followed our rules" and that there was no need for a hearing. Nevertheless, he says council decided on Oct. 9th, to "definitely" find an "independent person" at taxpayers' expense and verify the actual number of pigs in the barns. At the time of this writing, however, that person has not yet been appointed.

Also, it may be tough to get that independent person into the barn, in the first place. Barn owners can invoke special "biosecurity" requirements, such as "showering in and showering out" to guard against the spread of disease. Whether the owner has the power to forbid entry altogether, is unclear. The Mayor believes the inspection could depend on whether Verbruggen even "allows us in."

Pryzner says regulation must determine the most number of animals that can be housed in the original barns (Verbruggen's "iso-wean" operations which have been there for years) and the addition now at the centre of the controversy. She adds, "If a disease outbreak occurred and all animals removed, the building capacity remains the same." The manure storage permit the province issued in 2001 for that original operation is proof that barn capacity must guide regulatory decision-making, not animals present at any given time. "Local governments are not supposed to be in the business of counting pigs," she added.

Despite the fact this whole issue is not yet resolved, the newspaper story describes the Hogwatch allegations as "unwarranted swipes against a family farming operation." The remark was not directly attributed to Verbruggen, but seemed to appear more as an editorial comment.  

Greg Nesbitt, MLA

Crossroads This Week was originally put out out by Nesbitt Publishing in 1977 by Greg Nesbitt, now the Conservative MLA for the area. Although a Google search still lists the politician as "publisher," 

his son, Ryan says that is incorrect. He says his father has not been publisher for years and that he (Ryan), now fulfills that role. A subsequent search lists Greg Nesbitt as "manager" of the company.

The majority Conservative Government, of which Greg Nesbitt is a member, has been pressing forward for well over a year now with an ambitious program to expand Manitoba's hog industry. It has done this through deregulation - doing away with rules designed to protect health and the environment - a process the government calls "red tape reduction."

In an e-mail to PinP, Ryan Nesbitt claims, his father no longer has anything to do with the paper's day-to-day operations and strongly rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias which this story may have raised. "We are just a small town newspaper trying to do its job," Nesbitt concludes.



"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Busted! Citizens' group exposes Illegal hog operation in Manitoba. Few consequences likely for barn owner.(Video)

Read an alternative version here. Also....

"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Million$ more in government help for Manitoba's high-maintenance hog sector.

by Larry Powell

Manitoba's Premier, Brian Pallister has announced another assistance package to Hylife Foods of more than $11 m over the next several year. (HyLife is now Canada's biggest pork processor.) Some $9.5m will come from the province, the rest from Ottawa. It will help the company pay for a pricey expansion of its killing plant in Neepawa and a new feed mill in the southwest.

Last November, I warned in a blog-post here, that Manitoba taxpayers had better be prepared to "dig deeper." Why? Because Pallister's Conservatives had just begun to deregulate this province's corporate hog sector, so it could expand. And, expand, it has! Countless new barns are going up, so that millions more animals can be raised and slaughtered here: And all with fewer regulations than ever to control pollution, disease or catastrophic barn fires. 

Given past history, my article reasoned, more "corporate welfare" was surely in the wind.

It documented at least half-a-billion dollars in aid that had already gone to the industry, nationwide, from federal and provincial treasuries over the previous decade. These included a so-called "loan" of $10 m to HyLife Foods. Turns out, it may not have been a "loan" after all! The agreement allows the Minister, at the stroke of a pen, to release HyLife from its obligation to pay that money back. (No one really knows if that is what will happen. At least, not yet.)
Part of HyLife's executive team, whose corporation you and I continue to
"prop up" with our tax dollars. A HyLife photo.

In the ensuing ten months, there have been several more announcements of aid totalling millions, possibly billions, to the agriculture sector, overall. While breakdowns are not always announced, the hog industry has received public funding for such things as "research" as has the "meat processing" sector (usually code for the two big swine killing plants in the province, operated by HyLife and Maple Leaf Foods)
Despite all of this, the hog sector's demands on our public treasuries are becoming even more shrill and frequent of late. It has even issued a formal call for more public assistanc to bail it out of its economic squeeze posed by the threat of a trade war with the States. Apparently, Canadian hog prices have already tanked in the midst of the dispute. 

The industry is also sounding more alarms recently over the apparently real possibility that more virulent and deadly hog disease, now spreading elsewhere around the world, may invade North America. How long do you think it will be before a similar calls goes out for public dollars to counter this threat? 

It's been said that, without the kind of public "largesse" that now flows regularly to the industry, and the fact it does not pay for any of the "external costs" it inflicts on public health and the environment, it would probably go broke in short order!

Before I pat myself on the back too much for being "prophetic," boy, was I was wrong about one thing! In my November story, I said the next rollout of "corporate welfare" would possibly be in about a year. 

If I had been writing with a quill pen, it pretty much happened (allowing for a bit of poetic license) "before the ink was dry!" 


"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Drug-resistant microbes could threaten future global economy, low income countries in particular

Journal Club
A microbiologist examines the growth of a bacterial culture. 
A U.S. Food & Drug Administration photo. 
Antimicrobial resistance is not only a major public health threat, but also an economic one, according to researchers at The World Bank. Their new study, published in the journal World Development, suggests that an increase in drug-resistant microbes could cause millions more people to fall into extreme poverty within the next few decades. “Nobody has estimated the poverty effects before,” says study author Karen Thierfelder, an economics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and consultant for The World Bank. “We’d like to make more people aware of the problem.” More here.

Also Read: "In Hogs We Trust."  

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

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Rural Americans’ struggles against factory farm pollution find traction in court. Will it happen in Canada, too?

A Manitoba animal factory. Photo credit - Mercy for Animals, Canada.

As U.S. livestock farming becomes more industrial, it is changing rural life. More here.

"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s runaway hog industry.

Friday, 25 May 2018

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."

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.

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