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Letters – for Jun. 18, 2009

Fresh air good for animals too

The article “Berkshire freerange hogs” by Daniel Winters Manitoba Co-operator May 28, brought back some nice memories.

After growing up on a farm in the 1940s, I can relate to what the McDonalds are accomplishing. It’s been quite awhile since I first attended school, yet I remember the teacher giving lessons in health – always stressing the importance of getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. That’s why we had recesses.

And to me, that is one of the things the article emphasizes. Animals, like humans, need plenty of fresh air and exercise to keep and maintain good health. They need a proper healthy environment to live out their lives, so that we, as consumers, can enjoy our pork chops, bacon, ham and spareribs.

The McDonalds raising their hogs at Cartwright know this. They have made and set an inspiring example of looking after and taking care of their animals that they raise for food. Their success has been rewarding.

Not only are they endowed with common sense, they display and have put common sense to use, all to the benefit of the environment, our water and the animals alike.

That in itself is a rarity in today’s industrial methods and techniques of raising animals for food.

John Fefchak Virden, Man.

Assembly Line Not Working For Livestock

With reference to Marg Rempel’s promotion of factory farming (“Secure hog barns provide flu firewall,” Co-operator, May 28, page 5), there is no doubt that animals raised in a healthy, normal (for them) environment are less likely to get sick than those enclosed in totally alien, antiseptic conditions, pumped full of antibiotics.

The wonderful example exemplified by the W. McDonald farm (“Cartwrightarea farmer direct markets free-range, grass-fed hogs,” Co-operator, May 28, page 17) and some other enlightened farmers marketing “freerange grass-fed hogs” outside, exposed to sunlight and fresh air in the summer, comfortably bedded in straw in winter, demonstrates only too clearly that a happy animal is usually a healthy one.

Protest as they will, the fact is that the assembly line production of animals is inexcusable and unnecessary. The indisputable truth of John Fefchak’s comment (“Factory model doesn’t work for pigs,” Co-operator, May 14, page 5) has been displayed over and over again, by the unspeakable horrors of the numerous barn fires, which should have been a red light to anyone, including an indifferent government, that pig barns and electricity are not compatible.

The “common sense” attributed to these factory farmers is put to use solely for their convenience and ease of operation.

C. A. Stewart Lake Audy, Man.

Firewall Or Firestorm?

You have to admire the chutzpah of the Manitoba Pork Council (MPC) for its relentless public relations campaign aimed at convincing Manitobans that swine flu is somehow not related to Intensive Livestock Operations (ILOs).

In a recent letter to the Manitoba Co-operator (“Secure hog barns provide flu firewall,” May 28), MPC Region 9 delegate Marg Rempel claims that, from a public health perspective, ILOs are superior to traditional forms of hog production. This is because “quarantine and biosecurity measures are much easier to put in place and more effective than a production model where there are hundreds of small backyard herds.”

Scientists have long warned that hog ILOs provide an ideal setting for accelerated swine flu virus mutation and interspecies transmission. Unlike small backyard herds, ILOs function like viral firestorm crucibles that require, common sense suggests, biosecurity “firewalls” similar to those found at Level 4 labs.

Independent scientists studying the current swine flu virus at the Center for Computational Biology at Columbia University in New York reported compelling evidence last month that H1N1 is a variant of a known virus that evolved in a North Carolina swine ILO.

While their results have received little attention in Canada, they do reinforce the hog factory-swine flu virus linkage. In April, Mexico City’s La Journada identified the Smithfield Foods’ massive Carroll Ranches ILO complex, producing 950,000 hogs annually, as the source of the flu outbreak in Perote, where the virus first emerged.

According to La Journada, one transmission vector identified by local Mexican health authorities is a type of fly that reproduces in the untreated pig waste stored in open lagoons at the Carroll complex. The implications of this for Rempel’s biosecurity “firewall” fantasy are as obvious as they are disconcerting.

In closing, I would simply note that the “disaster of H1N1” is not, as Rempel and the MPC would have it, that “this virus is misnamed” and ILO operators have suffered economic losses. The disaster is that thousands of people in dozens of countries have contracted this virus and a number of people have died from it.

Joe Dolecki Alexander, Man.

Don’t blame Elections Canada

I would like to draw your attention to certain inaccuracies in the article entitled “Country folks need champion in government” that appeared in the June 4 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

In the article, the author states that “Elections Canada imposed new rules requiring voters to show proof of identity and residential address to vote – ignoring the fact that many rural residents only have post office boxes as their official address.”

In fact, the new rules on voter identification were made by Parliament when it made changes to the Canada Elections Act in June 2007. Elections Canada’s only role as an electoral administrator is applying the law as adopted by Parliament.

As for the second part of the statement with respect to electors with post office box addresses, Elections Canada had in fact raised this issue with Parliament in the fall of 2007. Consequently, new legislation was adopted in December 2007 that allows electors to use a piece of identification with an address consistent with the information on the list of electors (whether a post office box or rural address) to prove their residence.

John Enright Manager, Media Relations Elections Canada

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