Is culling against disease good in the long run?

Farm News Review – By Scott Stevenson
Is culling against disease good in the long run?

We don’t apply current agricultural and forestry logic to humans

Local Journalism Initiative

The editorial cartoon in a farm weekly earlier this month featured chickens wearing masks and distancing two metres. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands were being culled due to the avian flu and the hope of containing the disease.

The cartoon’s analogy with our human battle against Covid invites more provocative comparisons—and it challenges our current relationship with the food and resources we grow.

We wouldn’t kill hundreds of thousands of humans to prevent the spread of Covid, would we? We wouldn’t house hundreds of thousands of humans in warehouse-like barns, tightly fit for efficiency, either. Talk about inviting disease.

Earlier this month, 11 protesters who invaded a pig barn in Saint-Hyacinthe in 2019 were found guilty of breaking and entering and obstructing justice—as they should be for illegally impinging on the farmer’s rights and property.

Their actions were an extreme expression of a general malaise in society about how our food is produced. The vulnerability of industrially raised poultry to the avian flu is more reason for that malaise.

Other concerned citizens, in the Townships and around the world, are more quietly and respectfully protesting by farming differently—by raising cattle, chickens, pigs, and other animals on open pasture in more natural and diverse living conditions. It wouldn’t take many scientific studies to show that those animals are healthier and less vulnerable to disease.

An encouraging political move toward healthier farming and animals was the recent adoption by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture of a pilot project to allow the processing of poultry at the farm rather than in slaughterhouses, which are currently swamped with demand. This means that a licensed abattoir can have a mobile outfit that comes to your farm to process your chickens or other birds, which among other benefits is less stressful for the animals.
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