Cattle graze in a field at Arrowvale Farm and Campground on Hector Road near Port Alberni, B.C. (MIKE YOUDS/ Special to the News)

Vancouver Island farmers demand on-site slaughter

COVID-19 pandemic puts supply chains at risk, says group

Alberni Farmers Institute (AFI) wants the province to ease restrictions on slaughter licensing, calling it an urgent measure in case of food supply disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Together with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD), local farmers have been asking the B.C. government since 2017 to allow Class D and E licences, permitting on-farm animal slaughter in the Alberni Valley. With the growing impact of the global pandemic and the risk of supply-chain disruption, the designation is critically needed, says the AFI.

“The ACRD has expended significant resources in finding a solution for the slaughter services crisis we face and has submitted the results of extensive stakeholder consultations undertaken since 2014 to the Ministry,” said Lisa Aylard, AFI president. “It is now apparent to many in the Valley — our government, our farmers and our residents — that we need this regional designation and we need it now.”

READ: Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Members fear they won’t be able to offer adequate slaughter services to sell their meat legally when it may be most needed in the community. Nearest Class A slaughter facilities are in Nanaimo, Courtenay and Duncan, too distant to offer a solution.

Local farmers as well as the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association have already noticed a large increase in demand for their products.

B.C. regulations were tightened in 2004 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease elevated public health concerns. The restrictions were particularly hard on small and mid-sized livestock producers in the province.

“As an agricultural producer it’s very frustrating,” Aylard said.

The Ministry of Agriculture said it continues to review the results of recent consultations on the regulations, which will form part of a comprehensive report on rural slaughter capacities.

“Ministry staff are in contact with farming associations around the province to hear directly what the impacts from the COVID emergency are,” reads a statement responding to AFI concerns.

“The COVID emergency is a reminder about the importance of a safe and secure local food supply, and the benefits of choosing to Buy BC and encourage agriculture in our province,” the ministry added. “At this time, the food supply chain in B.C. is functioning well.”

A study commissioned by the ACRD four years ago found that neither Class A or Class B slaughter facilities would be a realistic option in the Alberni Valley. As an alternative, valley producers asked that the ACRD be classed as a designated region under provincial meat inspection regulations, which would allow Class D and E slaughter facilities.

READ: ACRD ponders abattoir for Alberni Valley

Last September, the ACRD resubmitted a request for special designation. In a letter to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, Regional District Chairman John Jack said a lack of red-meat slaughter services has been a key roadblock to sustaining livestock production in the region.

“The ACRD is requesting that producers within the region be able to apply for a license that will permit the on-farm slaughter of their own and their neighbouring producer’s animals, through a legitimate and accessible process,” Jack wrote.

READ: Alberni Valley abattoir feasibility study completed

Aylard feels the need for change is long overdue: “For at least the last 20 years, we’ve argued that farmers should be able to do value-added on their land,” she said.

Why has the province not budged, even when other rural regions — Gabriola and Saturna islands are two examples — hold special designation? Aylard believes government policy favours big business.

“It really caters to corporate agriculture,” Aylard said of the status quo. “Bigger is not better. Smaller produces better animals. More natural is far better for people.”

Once the rural slaughter capacity review is complete, results will be released in the form of a “What We Heard” document, the ministry said.

RELATED: Port Alberni council endorses climate, food security measures

AgricultureAlberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictFarming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Accident, downed power lines closes Highway 4 west of Port Alberni

Detour is available near Hector Road as BC Hydro crews work to restore power

Huu-ay-aht First Nations qualify for national wage subsidy

Limited partnership structure caused concern when CEWS was first introduced

ARTS AROUND: Giant Book Sale has new date, new location

Book sale will take place in November at Alberni Athletic Hall

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Yukon writer reads at virtual Alberni Valley Words on Fire

Joanna Lilley will make her appearance on May 27

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Most Read