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Letters – for Apr. 22, 2010

Customers will determine industry trends

Regarding the story “Gestation stalls could become Canada-U. S. trade issue,” Manitoba Co-operator April 15, Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch said his industry is not against loose housing for sows but change must be based on science, not human emotion and that MPC is going to make sure that “our” research is done before we implement the change.

I can only assume that all the studies in all the locations around the world that have made the change are not sufficient? Interestingly enough, the discussion covered in this article is full of quotes by Ed Pajor, “a leading Canadian animal welfare scientist.”

A key sentence stated that the marketplace is so far ahead of the industry in terms of humane standards that legislation may not be necessary anymore and that producers need to catch up with the public’s feelings on confinement systems.

Now, unless MPC customers are all from the scientific community, which I seriously doubt, that means that Kynoch will have to acknowledge that his customers (also known as the purchasing public) and their pesky emotions will in fact govern the market.

All the science in the world will not convince the public that confinement systems are acceptable, nor will all the emotion in the world sway a scientist’s opinion. This sounds like an impasse to me.

The market and money has always determined industry trends. The fact of the matter is that if an organization doesn’t change with the times, it slowly fades away as the public takes their purchasing power elsewhere (i. e. producers that do not use sow stalls).

It is time for MPC and the producers to stop digging in their heels and start accepting the fact that the time for change is here and to take the lead so that they can determine the adjustments necessary to satisfy the public.

Leslie Yeoman, The Humane Education

Network, 106 Lipton Street

Winnipeg, Man.

Whose side is government on?

As part of the railway deregulation process, open access to the railway network was supposed to have occurred 10 years ago. Somehow our wise politicians implemented rail deregulation without open access as a competitive replacement. The railways were deregulated by means of a revenue cap formula that was suggested by the railways. The difficulty with a revenue cap is how to determine the actual size of the cap.

Well, that is done by having a rail costing review, which should occur every four years as was done prior to 1992. The federal government recently initiated a rail service review and farmers were told that a rail costing review was to follow. It appears the railways have been busy lobbying our politicians again, because the transport minister’s office is now saying no to a costing review. If this is true, then our government is again siding with the railways and not the farmers. Who is supposed to be running this country?

Grant Wolowski Carrot River, Sask.

Who’s Not Listening?

Ron Friesen concluded his piece on the hog-farming forum at the University of Manitoba (Manitoba Co-operator March 25) with Dr. Sheridan’s lament that “it’s going to take a lot of creativity to figure out how to swing from large confinement systems over to loose housing.” This creativity has been underway for years, with the establishment of hoop systems for free-roaming pigs successfully operating all over the world.

The costs of heating the structures in the harsh winter months are balanced by the reduction of costs in other areas of operation and by the summer months. They are also offset by the fact that they meet higher welfare standards for the animals, which is something to be proud of on an entirely different scale.

There are so many better ways out there, so much research, wellsprings of creativity; and the excuse that Manitoba is too cold for a phase-out from confinement systems is utterly unfounded.

In addition, as one of the anti-confinement activists for whom Margaret Rempel notes her hatred and frustration, I would like to clarify two things. We are not fighting the hog farmers, but rather petitioning the government to financially assist a phase-out and to set up a decade-long plan for its implementation. We are bringing the gestation crates to the public so that the citizenry knows how pork is produced and how we are all involved in figuring out a way forward. Imagine the entire province pulled behind its producers to establish itself at the forefront of farm animal welfare. It’s entirely possible.

Secondly, it was the anti-confinement activists who paid to fly in a hog farmer and vet – not a vegan chef – to speak on campus. We did this because we want to discuss the issue and make connections with producers and their creativity.

Ron Friesen’s article quotes Rempel as saying that we don’t listen. It seems to me that the failure to listen is rather on the other side – among pork producers who repeatedly cast us as irrational rather than informed. This is ultimately about the kind of participatory democracy that benefits both humans and animals.

Dana Medoro Winnipeg, Man.

Ejector Ban An Unnecessary Burden

I am writing in response to the article in the Co-operator regarding sewage ejector systems (“Sewage ejector ban hitting rural pocketbooks,” Feb. 18, page 1). It is beyond our imagination how or why a cabinet minister would have the power to bring in a law that affects so many people without any research or scientific facts to back his decision, or without public consultation.

Our ejector system pumps liquid out onto a bed of gravel which helps filter the water before it enters the ground or enters any water system. We have lived with this system, which was legal at the time of installation, for over 20 years without any illness and have never heard of anyone getting sick or dying from this system. If this is such an extreme health issue, we feel the provincial government of Manitoba should pay for the cost of changing it. For anyone concerned about the transfer of bacteria, what about all the wildlife (bears, deer, foxes, birds, rodents, et cetera) that defecate all over our lawn, garden et cetera?

The extensive cost of this decision to people like us, senior citizens who are on fixed incomes, may have medical conditions and wish to sell and move closer to medical help, is a severe hardship. We should not have to remortgage our property to accomplish that. The move from our home at this stage of our life is stressful enough without this added burden.

I believe the minister should be more concerned about the raw sewage that the city is dumping in the rivers, rather than the ejector systems that have been in use for decades without causing any problems.

Samuel and Beryl Robbins Anola, Man.

Farmers Have Freedom Through Cwb

There are those around who believe that freedom of the individual trumps the freedom of the society in which they live and work. The discussion involving the Canadian Wheat Board is a case in point. The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association amongst others, believes that freedom of the individual should supplant the rights of the many. A curious notion that argues for anarchy, and ignores the history of money and power.

Anyone who follows such debates should understand that freedom of association, the right to stand up to tyranny and oppression has been a hard-won battle, for those in control of money and power tend to huddle it unto themselves. When it comes to money, those who control it, use it to create more, and tend to be selfish in the sharing of it. That is a lesson of history.

In trying to balance the needs of the many with the needs of the few, the CWB gives individual farmers the right to sell their wheat and barley outside of the CWB, asking only that a small handling fee be paid back to the board. A fact that opponents of the board always forget to acknowledge.

They also forget that there is such a thing as collective self-interest. By working together we are able to achieve much, and so doing enrich the lives of all.

Canada is presently governed by a group of people who collectively garnered less that 45 per cent of the ballots cast in the last federal election, yet they represent Canada on the global stage. Such is democracy.

Wayne James Beausejour, Man.

Public policy about serving the public

As a farmer, I look forward to some changes being made to the Noxious Weeds Act. Perhaps then the problem with the domination of weed district policy by special interest groups – the chemical companies – can be addressed.

Pesticide and herbicides are designed to kill. That’s the reason many farmers use them and some farmers do not.

Why has chemical control become the only option for weed districts? Chemicalusing farmers are outraged when their option to use chemicals is threatened. Proclamations about the “right to farm,” independence being taken away, or “communist plots,” are common reactions at the coffee shop.

What happens when a farmer’s choice is not to use chemical control? Or, when communities would rather not have poisons applied to urban environments? Do they not have the same rights to farm or enjoy their own and public property free from chemicals?

Special interest groups will hire “nice guys” like Jeffrey Lowes from M-REP, a public relations firm, to defend chemical industry and business profits by calling them “activists” and accusing them of “impos(ing) their beliefs and lifestyles on the public.” (April 1, Manitoba Co-operator)

Public policy must take into account the interests and values of the public as a whole, not single out the chemical companies and their supporters as the only valid interests.

When municipal councillors, weed districts, provincial and federal governments get the message that their job is to protect the public from harm, then maybe we’ll see some progressive policy changes in how to control weeds. They could start with seriously applying integrated pest management principles.

It would be a positive step forward if, instead of following Lowe’s advice to “cover your ass(es),” public officials would start taking their heads out of them.

Ruth Pryzner Alexander, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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