WINNIPEG – April 13, 2022: With more Canadian municipalities exploring the trend of backyard chicken-keeping, the Animal Protection Party urges restraint. “We’re in the middle of a highly pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak that is having a devastating effect on both wild and farmed birds,” says Liz White, Party Leader. “Why in the world would we consider adding to the problem?” continued White.
Avian influenza (AI) has been detected in several flocks on the East coast and is now taking a foothold in Ontario and Alberta, according to information on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website[i]. At least 7 flocks are infected in Alberta and 12 in Ontario, including 3 backyard flocks. So many outbreaks have been detected in the United States that the CFIA is now restricting the importation of poultry products and live birds from over a dozen states.
The welfare implications of AI for backyard chicken flocks are significant. Infected birds suffer from respiratory distress, diarrhea and swelling of their heads, necks and eyes. Those who do not die from the disease are ordered to be killed by the CFIA, whose methods of eradication consist of slowly suffocating birds to death with carbon dioxide.
Toronto is considering expanding its pilot project to become city-wide. The program is expected to attract a mere 1,400 residents at a cost of $250,000 annually to the City to monitor, through the hiring of two new inspectors. Toronto Animal Services staff report back to Committee in January 2023. “When you look at the cost to the City and the number of people who might participate, it makes no sense, especially considering how strained Animal Services already is,” added White.
Winnipeg is the latest municipality to debate a pilot program. The Animal Protection Party’s Winnipeg Centre candidate, Debra Wall, spoke out against the program at yesterday’s Standing Policy Committee. “The fall-out from such a proposal is as predictable as the sunrise,” Wall told the Committee. “It happened with hedgehogs. It happened with ferrets. It happens every Easter with rabbits and it happens to chickens in every city where backyard hens are allowed. Unwanted and neglected animals end up in the care of already over-burdened shelters and rescues.”
White added, “The risk of adding more opportunities for Avian flu to spread, the economic cost, and the likelihood of animal suffering is too high a price for a program that seeks to appease a small group of private interests over the health of the community.”