CBC Digital Archives

The smell of pig is the smell of money

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.

"The hog industry has an image problem," Manitoba's Minister of Agriculture Harry Enns tells the CBC's Linden MacIntyre. But for residents living near Manitoba's huge swine operations, it's more than just an image issue. They point to evidence captured on videotape. The footage shows pig manure being dumped on snow, and lagoons of manure being built too close to water supplies. Residents and local farmers say the provincial government is blindly supporting the pork producers at a heavy cost to the environment.

In response, Enns points to new set of rules regarding the location of large hog barns and the handling of manure. "We have drafted into place.some of the most stringent [guidelines] in Canada if not in the world," says Enns. Bill Paton disagrees. The University of Brandon professor says Manitoba hog guidelines are some of the weakest. To make matters worse, he adds, there is no policing system to monitor the big hog barn operators. 
. The Government of Manitoba describes itself as "strongly committed to the pork industry." Pig production in Manitoba has increased 13 per cent per year in the past several years. It is currently a $2 billion industry, employing 17,000 people. Pig production is the most valuable agricultural commodity in Manitoba, worth more than one-fifth of the total value of all agricultural production in the province.

. In a typical pig operation, manure falls through steel grates beneath the cages and sits on a concrete slab underneath the hog barn. Manure is flushed from the slab through the pipes and dumped into open-air waste lagoons. The waste is eventually spread or injected into the ground as fertilizer.

. Robert Sopuck of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent, Winnipeg-based think-tank, says rural communities have no choice but to accept large hog barn operations or risk extinction. Given the steady decline of the Canadian family farm, more and more traditional farmers are expanding just to stay in the business.
Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Oct. 13, 1998
Guest(s): Kelly Dube, Enns Harry, Bill Paton
Reporter: Linden MacIntyre
Duration: 8:21

Last updated: February 3, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

What's Happening to the Family Farm?

Whether they raise wheat, peaches, beef or potatoes, the Canadians who run our family farms ha...

John Diefenbaker: extra clips

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

John Diefenbaker: Dief the Chief

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

Leaders' Debates 1968-2011: Highlights

After months of anticipation and weeks of campaigning, it all comes down to one night. Televis...

Marc Garneau: Canadian Space Pioneer

His bravery is inspiring, his grace is charming and his credentials are out of this world. In ...

The Avro Arrow: Canada's Broken Dream

It's the closest thing Canadian industry has to a love story and a murder mystery. The Avro Ar...