The following transcript is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY
Nelson, B.C. Canada
June 4, 2009
Title: Pigshit! Industrial Hog Farming In Québec
Producer/Host - Jon Steinman
Transcript - Pat Yama
Jon Steinman: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one hour radio show that is usually recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio, CJLY in Nelson, British Columbia. However today, Deconstructing Dinner is on the road. And this broadcast has been recorded in Toronto, Ontario just prior to departing to the cities of Kingston, Ottawa, and then ending up in Montréal where this year's annual conference of the National Campus and Community Radio Association, the NCRA, will be held. I'm Jon Steinman.
In light of the radio station hosting this year's NCRA conference being CKUT, it seems fitting to share an excellent documentary produced by CKUT's Charlotte Scott, as part of today's episode. The production is titled "Pigshit: Industrial Hog Farming in Québec." Recorded in May 2008, the production features the voices of authors Holly Dressel and Denise Proulx, Benoit Girouard of the Union Paysanne, and Daniel Green of the Sierra Club of Canada among others.
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JS: One important update that anyone who visits our website might already be aware of is the latest from the G.E. Free Kootenay's Campaign that has been underway in the interior of British Columbia for just under a year now. The campaign, which has been documented as part of our G.E. Free Zones series here on the show, is seeking to create a region in the province that becomes and remains free of genetically engineered plants and trees. The group is requesting from local governments to adopt a resolution that declares in the form of a policy statement, that the municipality opposes the cultivation of such foods.
In November 2008, the City of Nelson was the first to adopt the campaign's G.E. Free Resolution. They were followed by the Village of Kaslo in January 2009. And the latest community to join the ranks of G.E. free regions in Canada, is the City of Rossland, who unanimously voted in favour of adopting the resolution on May 11th, 2009. That brings the total number of G.E. free communities in Canada to five and the campaign will continue to work with more governments in the region. You can stay updated on the Deconstructing Dinner website at deconstructingdinner.ca and selecting the image on the main page titled "G.E. Free Zones."
JS: In March 2006, Deconstructing Dinner aired an in-depth look into the environmental and human health impacts of producing bacon, pork chops, ham and any ingredients originating from North America's industrial hog factories.
In an excellent documentary released in May 2008, Charlotte Scott of Montréal's CKUT put a more focused piece together on similar impacts of hog factories in the Province of Québec.
"Pigshit!" as the documentary is titled, is a three-part series featuring environmental activists, voices from citizens' coalitions, and vintage tunes from Québec's past.
On today's episode of Deconstructing Dinner, we'll explore all three parts of the documentary. And on this Part I, there is one section in French that is followed shortly after by the English translation.
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Charlotte Scott: When it's spring in Montréal one might notice a peculiar odour wafting through the air. It's pigshit, in liquid form. Liquid manure from hog farms is sprayed onto farmer's fields in preparation for the growing season. At first glance it seems like a good idea, completing a cycle of corn production, hog farming, slaughter and export that defines much of Québec's industrial agriculture.
And yet, all is not well. Industrially raised pork are fed hormones and antibiotics that leach into local waterways. Lax regulation causes social conflicts and union woes. The vagaries of local economics have left the pork industry in deep debt to the people and to the environment of Québec. "Pigshit!" examines the current state of Québec's pork industry, its effects on health, and looks at ways that rural communities are resisting the encroachment of factory farms and exploring alternative modes of agriculture.
Pork is one of Québec's most important products. The latest statistics indicate the industry's worth at almost three billion dollars. In 2005, the industry transformed 7.4 million pigs, 40% of whom were destined for markets in 60 countries worldwide. The industry employs 28,000 people in Québec, all of whom are represented by the Union des Producteurs Agricoles.
Pork is also a big player in Québec's food culture. In the early 20th Century, provincial government fostered the industry for the sake of national food security and later on to secure export markets in the era of global free trade. To a complex support system, the industry currently receives over six hundred million dollars a year in taxpayer funds. In early December of 2007, a group of activists came together on Kahnawake Reserve to talk about new research and citizen resistance to local hog farms. The meeting was hosted by Mohawk activist, Stuart Myiow Jr. Denise Proulx will give us a brief introduction to the problem of hog farms in Québec. She recently co-wrote and edited "Porcheries!" a comprehensive portrait of industrial pig farming published by Écosociété.
Denise Proulx: This problem became noticed with pig farms is that first of all there's the horrible odours associated with it so that kind of alerted people in the areas and the public that there's something going on that is not quite right. From there, people started to look at to what's happening in our water courses and what's happening in the environment - trees getting cut down and the quality of water going down. And another point that Denise made is that agriculture is a big part of the French Canadian, the Québecois identity, the experience of, it's a big part of our history and culture even. But that now it's become defined strictly in economic terms and that this is sort of deforming the way agriculture is done here because it's seen strictly as a source of money as opposed to everything else that is suppose to contribute to a community.
CS: That was Denis Proulx addressing a congregation of activists on the Kahnawake Reserve in December 2007. Next up we'll hear about the environmental aspects of industrial pig farms from Holly Dressel. She's a renowned author and environmental activist.
HD: My name is Holly Dressel and I've written a couple of books on the environment with David Suzuki. And I'm also involved in particular issues in Québec. I work with a group called the Haut Saint-Laurent Rural Coalition which is part of another coalition called the Alliance Communautaire which operates out of Kahnawake and all the groups in southern Québec come and meet there in Mohawk territory with the help of the Mohawk to work on industrial farm issues because the Mohawk Reserve is in a basin that all the water drains in to, so they're kind of concerned. And I'm also founding member of something called BFF, the Beyond Factory Farming, which is an umbrella group for all the anti-industrial farming groups in Canada.
CS: All these coalitions, citizens of indigenous people are in opposition to industrial factory farms. What we are talking about today is pork farming, or pig farming. Why, what is it exactly about these industrial pig farms that have people so angry?
HD: Way back when David Suzuki and I were doing a series called, "Naked Ape to Super Species" I was trying to find examples of behaviour that humans have - industrial behaviour, social behaviour that is really destroying the earth so that I could use a good example and that we don't have to do. That it's just kind of a social decision we've made, it's a really bad one and we have to stop doing it and it does all these things wrong. And David and I lit upon industrial hog farming, it was perfect. I mean obviously people can argue about global warming and the burning of fossil fuels but that is one thing. Industrial farming is the major industry that contributes to global warming, more than cars is industrial farming. Huge use of fossil fuels. It has all kinds of ramifications besides these human health ramifications - the cruelty I mentioned.
There's also a social ramification. They destroy communities, they're like the Walmart of farming. They create stenches that have to be smelt, I believe that have been proven to that the stench itself just makes people crazy, increases asthma within several kilometers of large hog farm by four times. In a country like ours with a public health care system this is very significant and very worrisome. That's saying nothing to what it is doing to the water supply. What it's doing to the water supply is absolutely hair-raising. So there's fossil fuel use, global warming, cruelty, blah, blah, blah, everything. It is one of the most unsustainable practices you could ever work, I mean if you are going to sit down and say let's do something really nasty and unsustainable and ghastly, hog farming would be it.
CS: You're listening to "Pigshit!" an information series on industrial pig farming in Québec. Industrial hog farming has evolved from a sustainable model of small-scale farms to a complex system that often leaves framers at the bottom of the social and economic ladder while middlemen, lobbyists and government officials from environmental and social inequalities. Benoit Girouard, is an organic farmer and a spokesperson for Union Paysanne, an organization that acts to support the rights of small-scale farmers in Québec.
Benoit Girouard: Union Paysanne formed six years ago for two reasons. First was the pork crisis; the second was the monopoly of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles. Québec is the only place in the world where farmers can not choose their own union. They must join the UPA. Union Paysanne is the opposite of the UPA. We defend the rights of small farmers.
CS: Can you explain how globalization has changed the local agri-economy?
BG: Free trade and global markets allow the world's large corporations to operate everywhere. What we are now experiencing is that these companies are interfering with the food cycle by playing farmers against one another, all over the world. If you cannot provide the lowest price to the four or five big buyers say at the Marché Central, they will go to the lowest seller in California, Mexico, Costa Rica, anywhere within 48 hours. Farmers have no negotiating power; they can't sell at a fair price; corporations are in control. Currently we export pork all over the world and we are left with the problems - excess manure, problems with social cohabitation and the integration of young farmers into the industry are all big problems. The way pork is made does great damage to Québec's agricultural fabric.
CS: What is an intégrateur for example, a company like Olymel. And how do they work within the industry?
BG: An intégrateur makes a contract with the farmer. They'll say we'll supply the buildings, the pork, etc. and in return, I'll buy all your product. The farmer becomes a farm manager - you produce a commodity for the intégrateur. How did this system come about? Basically it's because there's no money in agriculture. Our government has let things slide to such an extent that only large scale industrial operations are economically feasible because as they say - the lowest price is the law. However, if consumers pay the lowest price, the lowest price goes to the producer - the person on the farm. So the intégrateur by virtue of the large volume of pork they can move can offer the prices that sell on the global market. To have access to this market, a farmer is forced into business with the intégrateur. Currently, about 60% of pork production in Québec is intégrated.
CS: Do governments subventions go to the farmers?
BG: No, it goes to the intégrateurs, that's the scandal. To insurance programs, large intégrateurs have pocketed millions of dollars. That's the scandal because they're not farmers, they're business men. Harvesting insurance money meant for farmers. The model simply does not work anymore.
CS: How has the system affected social life in the countryside?
BG: In 1971 there were 60,000 farms in Québec. Today, only 30 years later, only 26,000 farms remain. This means that in 10 to 15 years, we'll fall below 20,000 farms. Our agriculture literally is disappearing. Québec farms are disappearing 10% faster than anywhere else in Canada. And we have to hold the government responsible; those whom we ask to manage the state and they are not doing their work. They have turned our agriculture out to pasture to defend for itself on the world market.
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CS: You're listening to "Pigshit!" an information series on industrial hog farming in Québec. We just heard from Benoit Girouard, spokesperson for Union Paysanne. He gives an overview of the integrator's role in factory farm and Québec's role in global agriculture. In the next segment, we'll hear more from Holly Dressel and Daniel Green who present new and shocking research about water pollution in Ontario and Québec and its direct links to industrial hog farms. Please stay tuned.
JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner and that was Part 1 of a three-part documentary series titled "Pigshit!" and produced by Charlotte Scott of Montréal's CKUT. The documentary explores the social, environmental, and economic impacts of industrial hog farming in the Province of Québec. And here is Part 2.
CS: In the first part of the series we explored the social and economic context of industrial farms. In this segment we'll look into new research on the environmental effects of factory farms and find out how lax government regulation contributes to the problem. Holly Dressel, a prominent author and activist addressed a gathering held in Kahnawake, Québec in December 2007, hosted by Stuart Myiow Jr. She presents new research about highly resistant bacteria that is making its way from hog farms into our rivers and ground water.
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HD: This is what they call an emerging disease. It is really, really, really scary. I'm sure all of you know of C Defficile and other hospital borne infections that are on the rise also. We have long thought that there might be a connection between infections like C Defficile, any kind of infections actually that are antibiotic-resistant and the heavy use of antibiotics in the industrial farming industry. Because what they do is, they feed these huge amounts of antibiotics to these trapped animals because the animals are in very small, as you know, very small contained places. They can't move, they're very unhappy, they don't like to eat.
And antibiotics weirdly enough, subtherapeutic antibiotics - that means antibiotics that are given to animals that don't need them, they aren't actually sick with an infection, stimulate the appetite. So that an animal that is actually is sick and doesn't want to eat and is miserable, and wretched and all those things that these animals are, will have a false appetite when given antibiotics. So that is why the hog industry is extremely dependent on large amounts of antibiotics being fed to its stock. And doctors have been worried about this. And the CMA came out against this years ago because they could see what was down the line. What was down the line is antibiotic-resistant bacteria because the more you use this stuff, the more the bacteria has learned how to live with it, right. They're very adaptive organisms and if you give them alot of chance to adapt they do so.
Now gradually over the years we've gotten more and more scary infections. And for a long time one of the worst ones which is called MRSA, in English, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, which I'm sure most of you should of heard of an infection called Staph. We thought it was happening in hospitals which it is and it makes sense because the people there are all getting too much antibiotics and then the bug floats around. But now we have the proof that it's coming out of industrial farms, both cattle and hog, particularly hog we have the proof.
Now it turns out that the Europeans, especially the Dutch, who by the way invented industrial hog farming because they don't have much land-base, they invented this form of farming, they noticed it first. They started getting creepy infections in people that nothing would kill these infections and people were dying and they got desperate enough to say - well, what do you do all day, what do you do for a living? And they started realizing that these people were the families of pig farmers. The children, and the wives, and the pig farmers themselves were dying of these things. They started testing.
Now this year, just a few months ago, Guelph University researchers did the first Canadian study in an area just like this - Western Ontario just could be right here. They found that 45% of the hog farms, one out of five of the hog farmers and even more of the pigs, I forget, one out of three, one out of four of the pigs were carrying MRSA, Methicillin-Resistant Staph. Now Methicillin means the entire family of penicillin drugs will not work on this. Sometimes you can use Vancomycin. However there is a new strain of MRSA called CA-MRSA, which you can't use anything on. And that seems to be coming out of hog farms as well.
Now, it's amazing that we can't get attention on this. This disease killed more people in the U.S. last year than AIDS. It killed 19,000 people - healthy, young people. People just walking around minding their own business. Because Staph is not like AIDS. You don't have to have like sex with someone or get a blood transfusion, you can touch them. It's passed from the nose or the skin. So somebody blows their nose and hands you some money and you scratch a mosquito bite, you're done. This is coming right at the moment when the hog farm industry is going under economically. It's always been extremely marginal because so much inputs are required - so much fossil fuel, so much heavy transport, all this stuff. So they've always depended on government subsidies as we know. I forget, somebody's done the figure, did we figure a dollar a hog or something like that and with 30 million hogs in Québec that's quite a lot of money that we're paying.
Now the hog industry is really in trouble because of the dollar, the rise of the dollar in Canada, worldwide. They're begging the government for more of our tax dollars. To keep an industry going that fills our waters with bacteria, with blue-green algae, hormones and now it directly can be proved to cause this disease. MRSA is coming out of industrialized farms. We know, we long thought there was a smoking gun when it came to dangerous infections and antibiotic-resistance and hog farms. Now we've got the fingerprints on the gun. So we've got to be urged to spread this news. And we have to keep going on. I mean talk to your doctors about it especially in the rural areas. Alert your doctors to the possibility that this should be a reportable disease. They may be seeing more of it, especially in areas with hog farms.
So we're paying, as Stuart said at the very beginning, he said, "government-sponsored lethal disease." And the current policies in Québec government to favour the hog farms and subsidize them with our tax dollars are actually starting to kill the population. And in a way it's good because we always knew that these were terrible practices that they could not be good for the earth, they're not good for the pigs, they're not good for the food. And now perhaps that we humans are actually getting sick, we will be able to make people understand how extremely unsustainable these forms of industrial farming are.
CS: Public concern about industrial hog farms hit a crisis point in 2003 when the outgoing provincial government imposed a moratorium on new factory farms. Here again is Holly Dressel. She's going to explain the provincial government's role in the moratorium and why those in power today continue to support an industry that is economically, socially, and environmentally destructive to the people of Québec.
CS: Can you talk about what led to the temporary ban in 2003 in Québec?
HD: This all came to a head in the 90s when it became clear that all the rivers were going and people were going out of business and so forth and because of the experience in Holland and North Carolina. People from North Carolina actually actively went out and warned everybody. Farmers were blocking roads with guns in North Carolina and weeping when a new hog farm would try to come in because they knew it was end of them. This was noticed by everybody in the country and independently in Québec, individual citizens of each little municipality or county would get together and go - my God what are we going to do. And they would form these little groups - a coalition this, a group that, there's a lot of them.
CS: There's hundreds.
HD: Yes, there's hundreds, hundreds. And they would each fight in their area and try to get municipal by-laws against crates or liquid manure or whatever. And sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn't but mostly the province would always fight them, and they would be fighting the province, And eventually they started to ban together more and more. And then they were finally forced to have a BAPE, an environmental assessment. Now that was fascinating and there are still realms of material on the internet. I mean you can go and see all these BAPE testimonies and you know, the CMA went, the doctors went, nurses, health people, I mean you name it, plus the farmers, the citizens, schools, everybody went. And everybody said pretty much the same thing - this is awful, stop it! By the time the BAPE was done it was not possible for Québec, I mean they could of ignored it but it was clear what the BAPE had turned up. The environmental assessment was this is dangerous stuff, pull back.
Well right about then of course they were losing power, so you could say cynically they didn't have anything to lose. This is a major industry in Québec, they slapped a moratorium on it but they were going out of power anyways so they weren't going to suffer from that. So they put the moratorium on as they went out of power and we were very grateful. Now what it did it was interesting because it did not prevent existing hog farms from expanding. And in fact they doubled over the next four years, in size. But it did prevent new ones from going into new areas and being built and that was not nothing, believe me, that spared a lot of towns. But it did make the situation worse in places where they already had a lot of hog farms.
About then we had an election and everyone in the country was very angry with the PQ because it had taken so long to get the moratorium and it felt like, that's a start. And the Liberals in the rural communities, and I can testify to this, everywhere in Québec, ran on a No Hogs ad program. In fact they actually had on their posters - No More Hogs. And so people voted for them in mass because they were mad at the PQ for taking a decade to do anything and then not doing very much and here was the other party saying - we'll get rid of them completely! So everyone voted for them.
Four months after the Liberals were elected, this government that we're under now, the Charest government, they rescinded the moratorium. They said - oh, it's okay now, we don't need a moratorium anymore. They did not present any new scientific evidence. They claimed that they now had programs in place that would make it all okay to go back to expanding violently. Now the programs they have in place are hilarious, you should see them. There are things like the hog producer has to plant a few trees around, so you know that will catch some of the smell. Oh and if the smell is really bad he has to cover his gigantic lake of liquid manure with a lid, And a couple of other things of this nature but, but there's a caveat. If it costs him too much money, he doesn't have to.
CS: Even beyond the social stress that is happening in communities, even beyond the question of animal welfare, if we even put these aside, it's going to be costing the government huge amounts of money as people start to get sick as they get older, as the environment deteriorates, so why do they continue supporting an industry that is going to actually end up costing them money and it's already costing them millions of dollars because they're subsidizing the industry so who is benefitting from this outpouring of money, this outpouring of raw sewage into the waterways?
HD: Well I think whenever you have a situation where an industry becomes powerful and has cronies and lobbyists and you know gets use to getting their subsidies, it's very difficult to stop that. I mean it use to be the railroads long ago or steel mills or chemical companies, you know. This is still true of industries, like Monsanto, they have very good lobbyists. They convince the government of various things. I don't know if there is any graft going on but like you know sometimes you've got to wonder, right? I mean is there some kind of direct profits certain government members are getting out of this because once you have the BAPEs and everything, well we thought - okay, it's a no brainer, they can't play this game anymore. As you say, it's gone, and yet the Liberal government does not give any really good reason why they rescinded the moratorium. Now we are all forced to notice that a lot of short-term stuff goes on in governments - stunning. I mean like Mulroney, you know getting handed a bag of cash and as the Prime Minister and thinking nothing of it I mean. These are practices that give you like a quick little photographic glimpse into the kind of stuff that goes on and is obviously accepted by people even in the highest offices. So you know, I don't know. Nobody gives people fighting industrialized farms bags of money (laughs) so we don't really know if that's what's happening?
CS: You're listening to "Pigshit!" an information series on industrialized hog farms in Québec. What are citizens to do when governments and corporations side with one another to the detriment of public health. In the last segment of "Pigshit!" we'll hear from scientist Daniel Green from Lévis, Québec. He creates accessible and effective ways for citizens to test and prove water pollution. We'll also hear from rural Québecers, who've succeeded in stopping industrialized hog farms. Please stay tuned.
JS: You're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one hour radio show and podcast that is usually recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio, CJLY in Nelson, British Columbia. However today, Deconstructing Dinner is on the road and this broadcast has been recorded in Toronto, Ontario just prior to departing to the cities of Kingston, Ottawa, and then ending up in Montréal where this year's annual conference of the National Campus and Community Radio Association, the NCRA, will be held. I'm Jon Steinman.
In light of the radio station hosting this year's NCRA conference being CKUT, it seems fitting to share an excellent documentary produced by CKUT's Charlotte Scott as part of today's episode. The production is titled, "Pigshit!: Industrial Hog Farming in Québec." Recorded in May 2008, the production features the voices of authors Holly Dressel and Denise Proulx, Benoit Girouard of the Union Paysanne, and Daniel Green of the Sierra Club of Canada, among others.
If you miss any of today's episode, it will be archived on our website at deconstructingdiner.ca and posted under the June 4th, 2009 broadcast.
CS: In the final segment of this series we'll find out what scientists and citizens are doing to stop factory farms in Québec. Daniel Green is a scientist and activist for the Sierra Club of Canada in Lévis, Québec. He presented some of his past victories to an audience gathered in Kahnawake, Québec in December 2007 and demonstrated his homemade coliplate sampling kits.
DG: I'll present myself. My name is Daniel Green, I work for the Sierra Club of Canada and the Société pour Vaincre la Pollution. I'm here to talk to you about what I've been up to in the fight to protect our waterways.
The program went very well this summer. We sampled approximately, maybe 50 pollution points in a large area around Montréal and we found many pollution points. It started out to be a community action.
By the way we show this here also in Gananoque at the pumping station, close to the canoe club where a pumping station when it rained, too much water did not go into the sewage treatment plant in Gananoque and was discharged directly into the water. And we showed that with high levels of coliform counts.
Always interesting to see the people seeing the results. Wave-Net is going to continue next year according to a meeting we had with Sierra Club they even want Wave-Net to be expanded across Canada. It's a great way to get the volunteers to train people in water testing. There is not a person in this room that cannot test their water. You do not need a PhD in Microbiology, you just need a bit of training, a bit of equipment and you can test the quality of the water in front of your home. You can test your well water, you can test the stream, you can test pollution events, you can do it. We'll be expanding, not just for coliform testing but nitrates, phosphates. We now have a colimetric test, change of colour test - presence or absence, literally a pregnancy test for sign of bacteria toxins.
Okay so this is the coliplate. It is very, very simple; 96 wells; microwells; 400 microlitres per well. On the bottom of every well there is a little donut, un petite patisse, and that donut contains nutrients and also chemicals that react with chemicals that e-coli bacteria emit. Okay, the e-coli bacteria when it's in your gut, it emits enzymes to pre-digest things like sugars and things like that that it needs to live. So these chemicals in these little … so when you put water, fill up every well with water, the bacteria of your polluted water will dissolved the little donut, this will feed the bacteria, the bacteria will multiply, and the bacteria will start emitting these chemicals. And there is a colour reaction and when you have the presence of at least one e-coli in a well, the well will turn blue, okay. And if that coliform is an e-coli, it will fluoresce with UV light. So here is what little homemade incubator that we built with using a cardboard box and aluminum foil and a 40 watt lamp and it works very, very well. We used this all summer. We did some verifications with labs this summer and we had very good adequation between the lab results and our coliplate results. It's quick, it's colimetric and you can do it literally, anywhere.
This is Holly's orange juice. Pretend that Holly's orange juice is full of blue-green algae. Dipstick, one bar, that's okay two bars - well congratulations, your glass is pregnant with microcystin toxins. So, these are new technologies that are available. Anybody with these testing kits can do a diagnostic of water quality in their backyard.
The Wave-Net program is not just to analyze pollution it is to stop it and this is what we did this summer. Three weeks after we sampled the Auberge de Gouvernour, the bulldozers were there, they connected this hotel to the Longueuil sewage treatment plant. Three days after we identified la ronde, the pipe was condemned and now it's sent for the sewage treatment at the Le Notre-Dame sewage treatment plant. As we speak in Ile des Arts, these illegal connections are being redone. The cruise ships, every single cruise ship is promised by Spring of 2008 they will no longer discharge the [wastewater] holding tanks. They're asking permission from Transport Canada. So we had some successes. We identified pollution, we sampled pollution, we showed pollution coming from Polluter A into River B, and we stopped pollution. And we did it with no government help, just by working with the media. So it can be done, it can be done.
CS: You're listening to "Pigshit!", an industrial series on industrial hog farms in Québec. We just heard from Daniel Green, a scientist with the Sierra Club in Lévis Québec. Next up, three community members talk about their experiences and successes with Citizen Science.
TK: My name is Tony King, I live in Elgin. A bunch of us, I can't remember who exactly but we had eight or nine coliform plates and we each brought the from various streams around the neighbourhood, ditches, streams and brought them over to my place and incubated them. I suppose that's already been explained here. Incubated them in the incubator, that's a temperature of 98 or 99 degrees. Let's see there's ten coliform plates, one which I took from my kitchen's tap from my sink, I have a deep well. After it incubated for 24 hours everything was yellow; there was no discolouration whatsoever in it. So, the other eight or nine, all of them except one were completely, completely blue-green. And one of them and oddly enough, maybe I shouldn't qualify this but the one that was only two-thirds blue-green was the one oddly enough closest to the pig farm. So I didn't bother writing down a bunch of statistics because some of it's in my head it's so simple. Eight of them were completely, completely blue-green.
KJ: My name is Kathleen Johnston and I'm a member of the La Coalition Rurale du Haut Saint-Laurent. We're a small group, most of our members are from Elgin, the municipality of Elgin but we have a few people from Hinchinbrooke and Holly, you're from Saint-Chrysostome, Franklin. And we started to do coliplate tests just at the end of October. We did about six or seven, I think. I don't have the report with me. We did two small rivers close to Ormstown, streams really, and three or four in Elgin. We have a pig farm in Elgin and we also have a pig farm in Ormstown as well. And the result with our coliplates was that they were all blue. Every single one of them that was tested except for somebody's tap water, they were all blue, all our cells. We haven't done the e-coli test but that's the next thing that we're going to do. We will continue doing this, this is just our very first try so it's obviously important.
PW: My name's Patricia Woods and I belong to a citizens environment group called the Comité de citoyens de Saint-Bernard-De-Lacolle which is southern most municipality directly south of Montréal before you reach New York State. And as I was explaining five years ago, we got wind of the fact that there was actually a consortium that had approached a farmer, to buy some land and have maternity installation - there would have been 2,400 sows and all of the piglets that would ensue. But in order for him to do that he had to buy a lot from the farmer. The farmer was going to get free manure to spread on his corn and soya, which he was claiming to do biologically but I mean, industrial shit for organic farming it doesn't really make sense.
However, we were able to stop the project because there was maybe an 80-20 split in the population against this kind of industrial model. And also we got the sympathy of the mayor and the councilors by just showing up at community meetings and municipal meetings and making enough noise that they finally couldn't come to the point of saying - no you cannot have this kind of farm but you have to observe the regulations that we are going to pass including full treatment of the manure. It's like a city's sewage treatment - very, very expensive, so that really slowed them down. And then the moratorium came along and we had a couple of years of breathing room. And in the meantime, the hog industry is going down the tubes, the pigs are sick, the dollar is strong, and that makes a recipe that makes this kind of agriculture less and less appealing.
CS: So I'm curious about the logistical aspects for people around Montréal, who are facing similar circumstances where you know, they want to form a citizens coalition to create change on an environmental level whether it's upholding moratoriums, whether there's say a mine or a pig farm or something like that that's about to be developed in their area, what steps would you suggest for citizens action?
PW: Well that's a tough one because you really need a focal point and something that really helped us was we had a very generous donation from one of the wealthier residents of our community who donated enough money to buy this documentary film, ‘Bacon' to distribute a video cassette to every household. So anyone who didn't know about the nastiness of these pig operations got an excellent crash course and people came out in droves. So I think the first step is to sensitize the population.
CS: Well the problem of industrial hog farming is not going away any time soon. Community groups are working together to find ways to resist the industrial model and to bring the worst environment and social excesses of industrial agriculture to the attention of the public. Once again, Benoit Girouard with Union Paysanne with a discussion of organic animal farming as the sustainable alternative, and Holly Dressel with some suggestions for urbanites who want to get involved in the struggle for environmental and social health in rural Québec.
CS: Can you talk about alternatives to the current situation?
BG: Organic and local agriculture is one of the ways out. Because of all the agricultural sectors, organic is the only sector that has seen the arrival of new young and less young farmers. Currently of the 900 organic farms in Québec, half of these do not come from multi-generational farming families. It's the only sector that has seen positive growth in over 20 years.
Consumers and farmers are now aware that we have to re-appropriate the food chain from corporations. Direct sales and local organic farms are the best way to get around the current system and to rebuild a new model of agriculture.
CS: So what's the next step for these coalitions for people who have just become aware of the magnitude of what we're facing here?
HD: Well what these real coalitions, they've come together about as much as they can. I mean we have municipal, ecosystem, county, provincial, and Canadian coalitions of people fighting this. We can't go any further. What we don't have is enough urban people who are aware of it because let's face it, the rural vote is not a big deal in most cases. It's not something that really pushes society or pushes politicians very much. And I think that we need to make urban people aware that this is your water, your food, you are just in fact more likely to get sick from these practices than country people because if you think about it, I mean around me, I only have to worry about the hog farms that are upstream of me but they're all upstream of you. And not only that, I know how dangerous that meat is, I will not touch it. I have not eaten industrial pork meat since I learned about this stuff because believe me if you've seen some of the footage of how the animals are raised and what they eat, you would never ever eat it again. I get plenty of bacon and pork. I belong to co-ops. I get it from my neighbours. We've raised it in some cases ourselves and I'm not saying people should stop eating pork if they like it. By buying it you increase the number of farmers who can go - well, gee, I could ask enough money for these pigs that I could raise them properly. We should spend more on our food. We should spend what is necessary to make good, pure, wholesome food, whatever that is. And, if that means we eat less meat, you know, that would not hurt us very much, would it? And if the industry was not so big, well all that would mean is that some great big international conglomerates would be less rich.
What I would want to see is more work between the rural people and the urban people. They put some pressure on the government that comes not just from those few - it's a rural issue it's just those few people out in the country - but that comes from everybody saying we want good food, stop destroying our farmers, stop destroying our farmland. That's what we need. We need urban people to care about what they eat, what they're breathing, and what they're drinking.
CS: You're been listening to "Pigshit!" an information series on industrialized hog farms in Québec. Many thanks to Holly Dressel, Benoit Girouard, Denise Proulx, Daniel Green, Stuart Myiow Jr. and Sr. and all of the researchers and activists who are working to improve the health of Québec's people, her animals, her economy, and her environment. For more information and to get involved, please visit the following websites - beyondfactoryfarming.ca; unionpaysanne.com; and www.sierraclub.ca. My name's Charlotte Scott for CKUT, 90.3 FM in Montréal. Thank you very much for listening.
JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner and that concludes the last part in the documentary "Pigshit!" a look into industrial hog farming in Québec. The series was produced by Charlotte Scott at Montreal's CKUT and a big thanks to her and the station for making that production available. The full one-hour episode of today's broadcast has been archived on our website at deconstructingdinner.ca and posted under the June 4th, 2009 broadcast.
JS: That was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly radio show out of Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. Today's broadcast has been recorded in Toronto, Ontario and I've been your host, Jon Steinman.
The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh.
And this radio program is provided free of charge to campus/community radio stations across the country, and relies on the financial support from you the listener. Support for the program can be donated through our website at deconstructingdinner.ca or by dialing 250-352-9600.