Quebec opts for better pig farming
From back bacon to smoked ham, Canada exports over $2 billion of pork, making us one of the world's top exporters. But what's good for the economy hasn't been good to the environment. The problem is manure. Canada's 15 million pigs produce enough waste to fill Toronto's SkyDome every 22 days. It's a festering problem that has residents, farmers, environmentalists, government officials and members of the pork industry up in arms.
Unfortunately, that economic boost comes at an unsavoury price; pig manure, its odour, content and volume. On top of health and environmental concerns, pig manure is starting to affect Quebec's tourism industry. Just ask the residents of Ste-Anne-de-la-Pérade, the self-described world capital for tommycod fishing. For years the rural village depended on tourists who come to fish its prized cod.
But the number of cod has been declining. Residents say it's due to large hog barns polluting the rivers with manure. The backlash against pig farming has conscientious farmers such as Yves Lesage defending his way of life. But scientists, including McGill University professor Suzelle Barrington, say improvements in farming technology have led to safer pig-farming practices. After years of aggressively promoting the pork industry, the Quebec government is paying more attention to environmental and health concerns.
That has resulted in Quebec having some of the strictest regulations in North America. Quebec was the first province to introduce tough guidelines restricting the number and size of hog barns.
. Tommycod is the common name for Microgadus tomcod. The cod is about six inches long and has a life expectancy of three years.
. Ste-Anne-de-la-Pérade, known as the Atlantic tommycod capital of the world, is a small village located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence between Quebec City and Montreal.
. By 2003 Quebec raised over 4.3 million pigs -- an increase from 3.4 million pigs in 1981. (Statistics Canada)
. Responsible pig farmers cover their manure tanks, inject manure into the land rather than spread it on top and plant trees around the farm to reduce odour. These farmers make a distinction between their farms and pork integrators, which are run like factories.
. Integrator is a term used to describe big businesses that own or contract smaller businesses to perform specific steps in the pig production process. Some of these steps include breeding, birthing, transportation, processing and marketing. The eight largest pork producers in Canada are Maple Leaf Foods (Elite Swine), Premium Pork, Hytek, Isoporc, F. Menard, Big Sky Farms, The Puratone Corporation and Heartland Pork (Statistics Canada 2004).
. Supporters of factory pig farming say concerns over odour and water pollution are based on programs documenting horrific problems in the past with much larger hog farms.
. In 2001 the NFB documentary Bacon le film directed by Hugo Latulippe criticized Quebec's pork industry. Latulippe told CBC Radio that he made his film so he wouldn't become a terrorist. He argued that factory pig farming in Quebec is destroying the environment, agriculture, local democracy and human lives.
Program: Saturday Newswatch
Broadcast Date: Aug. 24, 1996
Guest(s): Suzelle Barrington, Yves Lesage
Reporter: Jessica Rubinger
Last updated: February 8, 2012
Page consulted on May 3, 2013
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