Windsor Star

Chicken foes lay an egg

- ajarvis@ windsorsta­r. com

Allowing city dwellers to have a few hens in their backyards so they can eat fresh eggs is an intriguing idea. There are lots of sound arguments for it. Many municipali­ties already do it.

To summarily dismiss people who petitioned council for two years to consider this, then to mock them — that’s no way for elected representa­tives to treat taxpayers. And it’s not the signal you want to send on the eve of a new term of council.

How soon some councillor­s forget. During the election campaign, they promised to listen to voters and expounded on the importance of a community’s quality of life. Mere weeks later, with one highhanded motion, they flicked a group of residents and any pretences of innovative thinking off the table. What a bunch of turkeys. This isn’t some hare-brained notion. Increasing­ly, and for good reason after recent scares over contaminat­ed food, people want to know where their daily bread comes from and what’s in it. They don’t want food that is drained of nutrients and pumped full of hormones, antibiotic­s and other chemicals. They don’t want flavour dulled by preservati­ves. They want wholesome food that tastes good. And they want it produced in a humane way and in a way that sustains the environmen­t.

That’s why more people are growing their own vegetables in their backyards. And that’s why raising chickens is a big trend.

I’ve read that pastured eggs have one-third less cholestero­l, one-quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, triple the vitamin E and seven times more beta carotene. People say hens are quiet (no one is asking for roosters), they don’t smell if you maintain the coop and they don’t stray. They eat table scraps, reducing garbage. They’re even said to be affectiona­te pets.

It can’t be any worse than the neighbourh­ood cat that pees on my porch.

In any case, I’m pretty sure it beats the heck out of industrial farms that cram thousands of birds together, pump them full of who knows what and truck their eggs who knows how far.

In fact, many people think all of this is progressiv­e.

Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland — they’re all major cities that allow their residents to have hens. It can’t be all bad. A host of smaller cities allow it, too. They have sensible rules like the birds have to be kept in pens a certain distance from neighbouri­ng properties and the pens have to be kept clean.

Guelph doesn’t get many complaints.

The biggest problem there was pigeons (which Windsor allows). Their owners released them, and they roosted on other people’s roofs.

Calgary had mixed feelings about the issue, so the city is trying it for six months. But not Windsor. The city’s licensing commission recommende­d establishi­ng a committee to study the idea. “I am open to the debate,” declared commission chairman Coun. Ron Jones. But apparently, he isn’t. He was among those who voted, with no discussion, to defer the issue indefinite­ly, in other words, to fling it into a black hole.

Jones first said he had read about it, had no objections, but wanted to learn more before deciding, which is the point of a committee to study it. Then he and Coun. Drew Dilkens announced that most people don’t want it. Did they conduct a referendum? They’re worried about noise and rodents, said Jones. You’d think the sky was falling.

To add insult to injury, Dilkens called it “clucking ridiculous.” When a couple that already keeps three hens in their backyard invited the public to see them, only one councillor went.

Let’s tell everyone: We’re not interested in new ideas. We’re ignorant and narrow-minded. And if an enter- prising group of taxpayers comes to us with a proposal, we don’t give a cluck. We’re not even willing to consider it.

This is part of the huge local food movement. Why aren’t we embracing it?

One-third of people are obese, largely because of poor diets. Why are we shooting down those who want to take care of themselves?

I don’t know which is worse, the disgracefu­l and wholly undeserved way council snubbed these people or its embarrassi­ng lack of forward-thinking.

Either way, council has egg on its face.

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