When pigs fly

Canadian Press Globe and Mail Posted at 2:09 PM EDT    Wednesday, July 24

Winnipeg: An alert minivan driver was able to avoid two decomposing pig carcasses that came flying at him after falling from a recycling truck, but he wasn't able to duck a gush of liquefied animal manure.

Ernie Zacharias was driving along a Winnipeg boulevard with his family this week when the pigs came hurtling at him. They had fallen off a Rothsay Recycling truck that braked quickly at a red light. Mr. Zacharias swerved to avoid a head-on collision with the animals, but his van was still drenched in liquid manure from the uncovered truck.

"Who would expect to see dead pigs flying out of a truck?" asked Lori Zacharias. "My kids were just screaming. The stench is so hard to describe. It was unbearable." She visited Rothsay Recycling about an hour after the accident to complain but no managers were available. A company representative came to her home later in the day to apologize and gave the family a $25 gift certificate to a pizza restaurant.

The provincial Highway Traffic Act says commercial truckloads carrying loose material, including dead animals, must be secured and covered. Glen Gratton, regional director of Rothsay Recycling, said none of his company's 35 trucks is covered because tarps and other such coverings don't prevent animal carcasses from falling on roads. "They're pointless," he said. "The hooves poke holes through the top and [the tarps] are destroyed within a day, so the animals could fall out anyway."

The truck was transporting carcasses from farms to the company's St. Boniface rendering plant. Mr. Gratton said the pigs toppled to the street because the carcasses were decomposing and were more "slippery" than usual.

Rothsay has told its customers they have until August 2003 to get coolers for their carcasses or the company won't pick them up any more.

Rothsay Recycling is the only rendering plant in the province. It transports dead stock from 6,600 Manitoba farms and animal remains from numerous restaurants. Its plant processes just over four million kilograms of animal remains weekly.

The hot, humid weather is causing excess pig casualties on hog farms and faster decomposition. Rothsay Recycling has had to deal with not only bigger loads, but rotting ones, Mr. Gratton said.