AFN resolution to erase CWD by eliminating game farms
Alberta Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann has proclaimed his support for an Assembly of First Nations resolution that calls for the phasing out of game farms to help combat Chronic Wasting Disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a newly emerged infectious disease affecting deer, elk, moose, and possibly caribou.
“Game farming contributes to Chronic Wasting Disease because the immune system is vulnerable to stress of all kinds, including capture, transport, confinement and handling by humans as well as intimate connections with other animals,” Dr. Swann said.
Dr. Swann says that about 30 years ago, the PC government, against the advice of wildlife experts across North America, decided to ‘diversify agriculture’ and sell game.
According to the minutes from a July 2017 Assembly of First Nations meeting, CWD threatens irreparable harm to wildlife and to First Nations rights to hunt, fish and gather as promised and the impacts on wildlife are already projected to be severe, with direct implications for reliant peoples and communities.
“One major risk to Agriculture is international boycotts of grain, grasses and straw since the animals may consume contaminated screenings and grasses,” Dr. Swann said. “The prion has now been identified as also growing in plants.”
The Last Straw - A Last Chance to Prevent Restrictive Trade Actions Leading Experts Weigh Containment of Virulent, Sister to ‘Mad Cow’ Disease, a news release shared on December 6, 2018, on behalf of health, agriculture, hunting and conservations groups following the passage of the AFN resolution, weighed in on the issue. The release mentioned that Norway has recently imposed trade restrictions on North American agricultural products from provinces or states infected with Chronic Wasting Disease.
“Norway’s recent action on hay and straw from 25 states and 3 provinces confirmed with Chronic Wasting Disease can expand to other agricultural products and spread to other regions. Countries aren’t just desperate to avoid this horrific disease, they can use this to leverage tens of billions of dollars per year in competitive advantage against North America,” says Darrel Rowledge, Director of the Alliance for Public Wildlife.
Rowledge says that five leading experts from federal departments of agriculture, health, and environment met with stakeholders in Ottawa on December 3, 2018, to review the background of the issues and threats, and to initiate dialogue regarding emergency actions regarding CWD.
“Notably, not a single expert disagreed that immediate actions are vital, and must contain the spread, limit human exposure, and outline a collaborative, science and evidence-based approach,” Rowledge said.
Provincial officials, Dr. Swann says, are responsible for monitoring wildlife while the Canada Food Inspection Agency is responsible for inspection and testing of animals.
“Alberta farms appear to have low incidence for now,” Dr. Swann said. “However, with 50% of Saskatchewan game farms infected and infecting wildlife, it may spread into eastern Alberta. Once CWD is discovered in a wild animal, the entire herd is killed.”
Dr. Swann says that so far, no cow or human has been inflicted with CWD, but a study done by the University of Calgary done last year found that several Macaque monkeys acquired CWD after eating infected deer meat.
“This raises questions which are unthinkable and should demand strong joint action from federal and provincial governments to protect feed and our food chain and strong regulations about the handling of infected creatures,” Dr. Swann said. “Unfortunately, many deer are consumed by many without testing the animals beforehand.”
Dr. Swann says that control measures are fundamental when dealing with any infectious disease, which involve stopping the source and propagation of the agent.
“We must learn the lessons of BSE – which all the experts said couldn’t spread to humans – and saw hundreds of people die of vCJD,” Dr. Swann said. “On the bases of protecting the future for cervids and our hunting communities, as well as tourism, recreation and Indigenous livelihoods, we must act now. Acting now will also preserve agriculture from international boycotts and the potential human health threats. Multiple departments of both federal and provincial governments must communicate and plan and act swiftly before we have a crisis that makes BSE look small by comparison.”