Alberta taxpayers need to know full cost of new government protocol to prop up game farming

Alberta Wilderness Association

September 16, 2004

The Alberta Government has released a new game farming protocol that allows imports of deer and elk into the province in a bid to "increase marketing opportunities." AWA is astounded by this move for three main reasons: the threats to wildlife, the growing public cost, and the lack of markets. AWA has long maintained that the threats of disease and commercialization to wild populations make game farming untenable under any protocol, and urges the Alberta government to maintain the ban on commercial imports of

"If there are no markets, why does our government fantasize that they exist, and continue to prop up this failed industry?" asks Vivian Pharis, AWA Board of Directors. "Most game farmers are at rock bottom right now, and are undoubtedly existing only through subsidy programs. And now we are
going give them even more under this new protocol. Taxpayers need to be told the full cost of continuing to support this futureless and dangerous industry."

Even many game farmers now acknowledge that the industry is not viable. The public overwhelmingly rejects penned hunting, and there are virtually no markets for game meat or for antler velvet, especially for products originating in North America, because of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD has spread throughout North American game farms and into the wild.

"Both the timing and content of this announcement are astonishing," says Darrel Rowledge, Director of the Alliance for Public Wildlife. "Virtually everyone now accepts that the industry is not sustainable. An expert panel on CWD at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at the University of Saskatchewan just reported that CWD "is arguably the most important issue in the management of free-living cervids in North America, with the potential to reduce cervid populations in the long-term, and to create
major socio-economic impacts" yet the Alberta government seems bent on perpetuating the problems and their costs."

Alberta's game farm industry has been subsidized through farm support programs and costly cleanups following outbreaks of TB and CWD. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into it so far.
Dr. Gerald Hauer, a government veterinarian and spokesperson for the protocol, confirmed on September 14, that Alberta taxpayers will be footing the bill for the considerable risk assessments associated with each
potential new importation, as well as for CWD testing of every deer or elk slaughtered in the province.

The new protocol allows Alberta to open its borders so that Saskatchewan animals may be processed at Alberta's one federally licensed game slaughter facility. However, it also opens the door to importation of elk and deer from anywhere. AWA continues to be alarmed about the possibilities of diseased game farm animals infecting wild game populations. Saskatchewan has had the worst outbreaks of CWD in Canada and subsequently infected deer have been found in the wild. AWA believes it is inevitable that flighty elk and deer will escape during transport. Rounding up and killing such escapees is costly and often ineffective.

For more information, please contact:
Vivian Pharis, AWA Board of Directors: 403-932-2124
Darrel Rowledge, Director, Alliance for Public Wildlife: 403-284-5927