ONLY $7.00

(includes shipping)

 with Rob Miskosky

It's a Poison Bag!

The press release screamed, “Alberta’s largest conservation group, the Alberta Fish & Game Association (AFGA), is gravely concerned about news the Alberta Provincial Government is once again discussing, behind closed doors and without public consultation, the re-structuring of government departments in a last ditch effort to save the struggling game farm industry in Alberta.”

However, according to Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Issues Manager, Dave Ealey, he hasn’t heard anything that would warrant the AFGA’s concern.

“The position of government hasn’t changed,” said Ealey, who has probably answered more questions regarding hunt farms in Alberta than anybody. “Cabinet made the decision in August of 2002 that these types of operations aren’t legal in Alberta and that hasn’t changed.”

If you remember back to 2002, the government of the day, namely Ralph Klein, said, “To go to a hunt farm and shoot a penned-up animal, an animal that doesn’t have a chance, I think it’s abhorrent.”

But AFGA president, Quentin Bochar, isn’t so sure that the government’s position hasn’t changed, and in fact may be swaying to the pressures of Alberta’s Agriculture department who just can’t seem to get anything right when it comes to the game farm industry.

Hunt farms? You gotta’ be kidding!
“Our position is that game farming has been a huge mistake from the very beginning,” said Bochar, clearly frustrated at even discussing the issue.

“It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when we, in Alberta, have to put up with the idea of hunting elk and deer behind fences to save a dead industry. These discussions shouldn’t even be taking place.”

And Ealey isn’t denying that discussions have taken place.

“Obviously it is something that has been going on for a very long time,” he said, referring to conversations between SRD and Agriculture. “Both SRD and Agriculture have a role, and that is to work together to avoid impact on our wild animals; to deal with issues of disease; issues with parasites; and prevent conflicts with our wild animals.

“There is always discussion with our agriculture producers and we’ve made changes to assist the producers. But government position hasn’t changed regarding hunt farms.”

If we take a quick look back at the game farming industry in Alberta and in other North American jurisdictions, it’s easy to see that a pattern has developed—a pattern that shows an industry doomed for failure. The projected incomes that were to sustain and grow the commercialization of wildlife, which in itself goes against the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation where wildlife was restored on a continent almost void of that same treasured resource, are virtually non-existent. A meat market that failed to materialize; a velvet antler gimmick that has all but dried up due to concerns of disease; a dismal market for urine and feces collected for scents and lures; and the current prohibited act of selling “behind the fence” hunts, have eroded the industry to the point of collapse.

And this has been going on for a long time. Again, remember back to 2002 when Klein said, “We didn’t get the elk farmers into this particular business. They got into it on their own because the price of elk, particularly antlers, was very high at one time.

“There was a tremendous price being paid for breeding stock, but now the market is in a bit of a slump.”

It should be noted that Klein’s suggestion that government had nothing to do with getting elk farmers into the business is laughable. In fact; the government of the day, under the leadership of then Premier Don Getty, played a large part in the establishment of the game farming industry and encouraged producers to get involved. The Getty Government even manipulated the public input process, as later confirmed by the Provincial Ombudsman, that the AFGA claimed clearly showed no support for the legalization of the industry—a legalization that took place by secret Order in Council (no.121/87 Don Getty Chairman) on February 26, 1987.

Meanwhile, several individuals with political connections had already jumped in and had begun illegally importing elk into Alberta prior to the industry being legalized.

And made off like bandits while leaving honest farmers, who got in on the pyramid scheme too late, holding the poison bag.

To this day, the Alberta Government has failed to correct the mistakes made by its former leaders and appear to dismiss the fact that a problem even exists with game farming, despite the fact that The Expert Scientific Panel on Chronic Wasting Disease confirmed that the source of Canada’s CWD was “spillover from infected game farms.”

According to Alberta Hansard, November 2009—the official, verbatim record of parliamentary debates—when asked by the Official Opposition House Leader, Laurie Blakeman, if the department of Agriculture and Rural Development was “prepared to compensate game ranchers to help them phase out of this industry” the minister responsible, Honourable George Groeneveld, replied, “...certainly not. I would like to inform the member that Alberta has mandatory testing and import protocols in place to address CWD concerns for farmed elk and deer. It’s interesting to note that Alberta’s only case of CWD in farmed elk was in March of 2002, and we’ve tested over 50,000 captive cervids for CWD since 1996.”

That same irresponsible answer that has been given over and over again, that CWD is being contained because of high standards set by the Alberta Aggies, is not acceptable.
Meanwhile, CWD is starting to show up farther west into Alberta with the furthermost point being the west edge of WMU 151. These are hunter-killed deer and are showing up due to mandatory head testing requirements. With no cull taking place, the number of CWD positives are down, but it’s suspected that numbers would be much higher and probably further west than what is currently being shown had the cull continued. An end to the cull was put in place when bad press was divvied out because of a poorly locked down burial pit and photos were passed around the Internet, clearly putting a bad light on our Fish and Wildlife Division and throwing SRD into damage control mode.

According to Dave Ealey, as of December 2, 2009, 947 hunter submitted heads have been tested with three CWD positives showing up.

“We’ll look at the final numbers and make decisions from there. It’s a balancing act,” said Ealey, referring to the fact that the public, landowners and hunters all play a role in the development of CWD control strategies.
But as Darrel Rowledge of the Alliance for Public Wildlife and author of the book, “No Accident... Public Policy and Chronic Wasting Disease in Canada” says, “CWD isn’t the problem, it’s the symptom. Until we stop the problem, we’re going to continue to have the symptom.”
And that problem is the continued practice of allowing the commercialization and privatization of wildlife—game farming. It’s time to admit that mistakes were made and compensate the game farmers as suggested by Ms. Blakeman, not look at legalizing hunt farms as a means to resurrect a failing industry—that is irresponsible and makes a mockery of sound science.

It’s a poison bag, and it’s time to throw it away... for good! ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

Sports Scene Publications Inc.
10450 - 174 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5S 2G9
Phone: 780-413-0331 • Fax: 780-413-0388

Privacy Policy

© 2016 Sports Scene Publications Inc. All Rights Reserved