Support a sustainable, humane alternative
Laura Rance is correct. There is no excuse or justification for failing to provide proper care for farm animals.
But hog industry excuses continue.
Depopulating barns and “euthanizing” piglets is deemed necessary in tough market conditions, hence the recent killing of 1,300 “severely distressed” piglets. Why aren’t they discussing the fatal flaws in the vertically integrated, export-oriented pig market?
Ron Kostyshyn, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, believes the market will take care of the sow stall problem as giant buyers such as McDonald’s are committed to sourcing pork from sow stall-free operations because stalls are internationally regarded to be inhumane. Yet, he, the industry and his federal counterparts are seeking to find ways for the public to once again prop up the collapsing industry without addressing the fundamental problems in the global market that lead to human and animal welfare, economic and environmental problems.
Instead of addressing industry-systemic problems, the Chief Veterinary Office (CVO), threatened a witness to the shooting of these piglets, with criminal charges for video taping the event. If these piglets were euthanized humanely, what is the problem with video documenting it to ease public concern?
Secrecy and threats breed suspicion. Temple Grandin has shown how transparency encourages humane practices and builds public confidence in industry and regulations. Video documentation is good for animal welfare, secrecy is bad.
Suspicion grows when the public isn’t told the cause of “severe distress.” If the CVO deems the suffering endured by piglets shot several times before dying to be humane, this is a serious problem for farmers, consumers, farm animal welfare activists and animals.
Rather than further subsidizing this fatally flawed model, collapsing under the weight of market forces, isn’t it time to support a downsized, sustainable and humane alternative?
Not much has changed
Basically, not a great deal has changed in the hog industry from what occurred three years ago when reporter Ron Friesen told us, “The once-booming pork industry hits the wall and their chickens come home to roost.” (Co-operator 2 July, 2009)
The hog expansion in Manitoba led by corporate investors and supported by the government(s) had no foundation, no plan and no foresight. Its only self-commitment, motivation and strategy was to keep growing and as such became nothing more than like a house of cards; remove one or two cards and the house will begin to collapse. In 2009, it was too many hogs. In the most recent scenario, it is the “high cost of grain” to feed their inventory of hogs.
So, what to do next? Well as Laura Rance tells us in Part 2, of “What now?” in the same 2009 edition, a far better approach would be to take a hard look at what the industry must do to win over, not only consumers but rural neighbours and Canadian taxpayers as well. Producers have had significant financial support from the public sector. Advance payments alone over the past three years (2006-09) running have averaged more than $100,000 per producer.
So, will the hog industry simply pick up the same deck and just redeal? If that is their transition action plan, the game must be played a lot differently to succeed.
There is a good future for hog producers in Manitoba, but changes will be necessary. There must be an attitude change. There must be adherence to environment considerations, and a recognition of the realities of economics and the marketing of commodities. There must be an acceptance of responsibility. And most importantly, changes to the factory style of raising hogs are foremost.