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 with Rob Miskosky

Wildlife Wakeup Call

Many have long called for the end of game farming in Canada, for several reasons, but mostly because of chronic wasting disease and its rampant spread in wild deer and elk populations. However, many biologists believe that the end of game farming would have little to no effect on the spread of CWD in wild ungulates because it’s too late to curb that problem. And they’re probably correct, but that doesn’t mean that governments should shuck their fiduciary duties and ignore the risk potential of CWD. There is something called The Precautionary Principle, which is the precept that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous. Again, a principle that should be followed by governments.

COVID-19 should be the wakeup call to the possible horrors of chronic wasting disease.

A recent letter from the federal organization, The Council of Chief Veterinary Officers, calling for the end of the restocking of game farms where CWD had previously been found shocked me. I was under the impression that once a farm had become contaminated, it was depopulated, and never restocked again because of contamination to the plants and soils that exist there.

However, such is not the case.

Saskatchewan, where CWD originated in Canada, has gone so far as to say that it has no plans to change legislation for farms that raise animals such as deer and elk. This, after the letter from the Council of Chief Veterinary Officers warned that animals could contract the disease from exposure to a contaminated environment. Research has shown that prions bind to soil and it is well known that these infectious agents can be taken up through plants. And, what do deer and elk eat, well... plants of course, growing in soil.

Another huge threat that chronic wasting disease poses is to our agriculture industry. A University of Texas study showed that prions can survive both on and in some agricultural crops, including wheat. Mad cow disease alone showed us what trade barriers to Canada’s agriculture products could do to us economically. Did we not learn from that experience? Apparently not. Norway has already banned any imports of hay or straw from North America where CWD is prevalent.

Most of the infectious diseases that humans have endured over the years have come from animals. Namely, the domestication and/or caging of animals, which leads to animal stress, which leads to compromised immunities, which leads to disease. Just look at COVID-19, which is thought to have come from a Chinese wildlife market selling live animals including wolf pups, salamanders, civets, and bamboo rats for consumption. Viruses are easily spread to people if animals are kept in cramped and sometimes dirty conditions.

I’ve said it in this space before; while there is no scientific evidence that humans can contract CWD, primate studies have shown that it may be possible. If CWD is confirmed in a human, imagine the effect. How long did that person have CWD before it was discovered? How many interactions with others did that person have over those years? Yes, years! CWD doesn’t show any symptoms until years after initial infection. The thought of a person carrying CWD around for years should be enough to make any government stand up and take notice. CWD should not be taken lightly. If a human were to contract chronic wasting disease, it would make COVID-19 look like child’s play.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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