Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Intensive Hog Farming in Manitoba: Transnational Treadmills and Local Conflicts *

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Intensive Hog Farming in Manitoba: Transnational Treadmills and Local Conflicts *

Article excerpt

THE TRAGEDY IN WALKERTON, ONTARIO, and growing fears of water contamination in other parts of rural Canada, have added to the debate about intensive livestock operations (ILOs) designed for the large-scale factory farming of animals (Edwards and Ladd, 2000; Thu, 1996; Thu and Durrenberger, 1994; Durning and Brough, 1991). The expansion of ILOs is part of the transition to a new food regime characterized by large concentrated units, technologically sophisticated supply chains, vertical integration and production of a specialized commodity for global markets (Friedman, 1991; 1998; Hamilton, 1994; Goodman and Redclift, 1991). Critics of industrialized agribusiness (Berry, 1991; Kenney, 1991) have raised concerns about the environmental sustainability of this food regime in regards to air, water and soil quality, as well as threats to human health. ILOs produce an added challenge to sustainability with their requirements for the assimilation of vast quantities of animal waste (Durning and Brough, 1991).

Factory farming and corporate concentration in agriculture pose the question of which governance strategies may best be employed to ensure that these operations are regulated in the public interest. Canadian provinces and rural municipalities, similar to other localities faced with homogenizing market pressures (Sachs, 1999), have been placed in a political quandary--internally divided on the issue of ILOs and lacking sufficient information or jurisdictional authority to practise effective environmental democracy Giddens (1990) has outlined a process of "disembedding" (see Granovetter, 1985), under which economic activities become separated from the social bonds of local communities and then recombined across larger units of time and space. If ILOs have grown rapidly in the global economy, becoming disembedded from normative mechanisms that could regulate agricultural activities, the question becomes: Can we find a way to collectively re-regulate them?

This paper will examine the problem of ILO pollution and its regulation with a focus on the province of Manitoba, the site over the past decade of Canada's fastest growing intensive hog industry. It will be analysed as a case study of the "treadmill of production" (Schnaiberg and Gould, 1994; Gould, Schnaiberg and Weinberg, 1996) in livestock agriculture, which is characterized by the expansion of large and highly concentrated production units. The tendency toward economic concentration, vertical integration and corporate ownership (Edwards and Ladd, 2000; Thu, 1996; Goodman and Redclift, 1991) has been underway at the expense of smaller scale, less specialized operations. This expansion has resulted in growing environmental impact--the "negative externalities of a production treadmill" (Bell, 1998: 78)--from intensive hog farming. Hog wastes may be responsible for nitrate leaching and phosphorus runoff in water, as well as the release of harmful pathogens and offensive odours (Mussel and Martin, 2000). The environment acts as a sewer (Redclift, 1996; Yearley, 1996) for the waste products of industrialized food production and the effects are differentially distributed. The increasing visibility of environmental concerns poses the question of state actions. Deregulation and neo-liberal agricultural policies (De Lind, 1995; Thu, 1995) instituted to accelerate the treadmill have led to the downloading of much of the responsibility for ILO governance onto rural municipalities. The resulting conflicts over hog barns at the local level have underlined the state's contradictory role as development promoter and environmental regulator (Schnaiberg and Gould, 1994; Cable and Cable, 1995). Thus, this paper will also be concerned with the state's problematic efforts to construct legitimation frameworks (Hall, 1998) to manage this contradiction.

Methodology

Information for this paper has been collected from heterogeneous sources, which is necessary because there is no central source of information on the hog industry in Manitoba. …

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