Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The Yukon government will work with a panel of local farmers to update animal management legislation in the territory.
The proposed change is spurred by a recommendation from the Yukon coroner following a fatal dog attack in Ross River four years ago.
The new legislation, which focuses on animal welfare, will necessarily affect livestock laws.
This includes setting standards for livestock slaughter, adequate shelter for animals and stray livestock control.
An information session held last Wednesday evening in Whitehorse hosted about 30 farmers anxious to hear how the changes might affect their business practices.
This week, a subcommittee of approximately six Yukon farmers will meet with government officials and work toward solutions to industry concerns.
Christina Reeves of Brat Pak Kennel and Farm told the Star she is generally in support of the increased legislation, as long as it’s written with a northern focus and specific guidelines that work for local farmers.
“We have very specific challenges up here in the Yukon,” Reeves said.
She noted both feral and domestic horses as well as elk roam the highways near her farm and pose a Yukon-specific problem.
There was a suggestion during the information session that local authority groups could be granted more authority, as is done in other parts of the country.
Reeves said this idea “brings up concerns” about who might be enforcing the rules and the perspective they might be working from.
“It can depend on how a person construes (the legislation): what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person,” she said.
“The biggest thing is that our challenges can be different than in other parts of the country,” Reeves said.
She is considering joining the subcommittee, but the loss of daylight hours in the winter and the hour-long commute from her farm to downtown pose challenges to participation.
Kevin Bowers, who raises pork and poultry at Castle Mountain Farm, said proper consultation is pivotal to writing successful legislation.
“There’s a level of concern as to where this legislation might go,” he said. “It’s not like the agriculture community would have the last word.”
Bowers said, however, that clear guidelines for farmers could be a good thing assuming consultation is conducted properly.
“With the right stakeholders, it’ll better reflect what the needs and desires of the agriculture community are,” he said.
He added that there is some confusion about how much legislation currently exists in the territory, as the Yukon is experiencing a fairly recent agricultural boom.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said of increasing the number of rules. “There’s always some misunderstanding that there’s legislation in place when, in fact, there isn’t.
“Do we need more? Maybe we do.”
Mary VanderKop is the chief veterinary officer in the Department of Environment.
She ran last Wednesday’s meeting, and said she expects the subcommittee consultation to last a couple of sessions.
VanderKop said that rather than write all-new legislation, the government has the option of referencing the national codes of practice which most Yukon farmers already follow.
The evaluation of the national code as a suitable guideline for the Yukon will be discussed at the first subcommittee meeting.
Members will review concerns about proposed rules for “slaughter without stunning” and stray livestock control. They will also be asked to bring any additional concerns or ideas to the table.
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