Category: Farming

Without massive government subsidies, can the salmon farming industry survive?

“Can the salmon farming industry survive without massive government subsidies,” writes Marike Finlay-de Monch in Port Dufferin, Nova Scotia, “and does a forensic economic analysis show that taxpayers are paying through the nose to pollute their own waters?”

National correspondent Mark Hume explains:

Nailing down precisely the financial support federal and provincial governments provide to the salmon farming industry would indeed require a forensic audit. Lacking the resources to do such a study, we can turn to a variety of sources to address the question of how much Canadian taxpayers are pouring in to aquaculture in general.

It’s a lot.

Last year Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announced Ottawa is providing $54 million over five years to “help address the sector’s challenges to growth by reducing red tape, improving regulatory management and transparency; as well as increasing scientific knowledge and supporting science-based decision making.”

But that’s just one of many government programs that are designed to either directly, or indirectly help the aquaculture industry.

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What is the main cause of Avian flu?

On Globe B.C.’s new Facebook page, reader Linda Lag asks: “What is the main cause of the avian flu?” Globe B.C. reporter  Wendy Stueck explains:

Avian Influenza is a contagious viral infection that can affect domestic poultry and wild birds. The main subtype, the potent flu virus known as H5N1 was discovered in 1997, when it first infected humans during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong SAR, China.

Today, the main cause is contact with infected birds, which can shed the virus in their saliva, nasal secretions and feces.

Most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in humans. But some – including the subtype known as H5N1 currently circulating in parts of Asia and northeast Africa – have caused human disease and deaths since 1997. Transmission to humans has occurred through close contact with infected birds or contaminated environments.

Avian influenza viruses do not pose a food safety risk as long as poultry products are properly handled and cooked.

An outbreak confirmed December 2 in in B.C.’s Fraser Valley involves a highly-pathogenic H5N2 virus. A highly-pathogenic virus causes severe illness and death in birds, particularly poultry, while a low-pathogenic virus causes less severe illness and lower rates of mortality.

Migratory birds such as geese are known carriers of Avian Influenza and transmission tends to occur along north-south flyways. The virus might be carried to a domestic poultry operation by a person, a vehicle, feed, equipment, birds or animals.

“There are a hundred different ways it could get in, even with good bio-security in place,” says Dr. Andrew Potter, professor of veterinary microbiology with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization.

Avian Influenza outbreaks are not confined to large-scale, commercial operations – some incidents of H5N1 in Asia, for example, took place in what could be considered mom-and-pop operations – but large industrial operations allow for rapid spread.

“Obviously, if you have a large number of animals in a small area, you’re going to multiply the effects, fairly rapidly,” Dr. Potter says.

So far, the Fraser Valley outbreak involved 8 sites, according to the most recent updates, and 155,000 birds that were already dead or to be killed.

In 2004, an outbreak of avian influenza H7N3 swept through the Fraser Valley and resulted in the cull of about 17 million birds.

Read more from Stueck here, and follow Globe B.C. on Facebook and Twitter.

Urban farming: Should I keep chickens in my backyard?

If you’re serious about urban farming with chickens in your backyard – a trend picking up in hipster neighbourhoods – be warned: you’re in for a lot of work. Aside from cleaning and feeding them, try finding a chicken sitter, if you want to go on vacation. (Might be more challenging than asking your neighbour to feed your cat.)

Globe Life explored the trend – and the backlash – last year. Reporter Amber Daugherty wrote about the hopes of hundreds of people who had grand plans to be an urban farmer, and they “didn’t turn out exactly as planned.”

In Minneapolis in 2001, 50 chickens were dropped off at animal shelters. Last year, that number rose to over 500, according to Chicken Run Rescue, a Minneapolis-based group that provides temporary shelter and vet care to abandoned chickens.

The trend is being seen in Canada, too.

Sayara Thurston of the Humane Society International Canada, who is based in Montreal, said chickens are being dropped off at the SPCA in Montreal every week.

“A chicken is a pet like any other and they need to be cared for throughout their lives, which people need to take into consideration if they’re thinking of adopting some chickens into their home,” she said.

For more on the complexities of urban chickens, read on.