The spread of mad deer disease worries hunters

Concerned about the explosion in the number of mad deer disease cases in the west of the country, fishermen in Quebec want to abolish deer farms to protect wildlife, but Quebec is becoming deaf ears.

“We thought the measures in place were sufficient in Quebec to avoid risks to wild livestock, but the outbreak of the disease in 2018 showed that we are not protected,” pleads biologist Michelle Barrell, of the Federation of Quebec Hunters and Fishermen (FQCP).

In 2018, eleven red deer slaughtered at Harbor Farms in Grenville sur La Rouge in the Laurentians were found to be a vector for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

This BSE is incurable and cannot be controlled once introduced into the environment.

So Harbor Farms had to go out of business and a massive hunt was organized around them to eliminate any potentially sick animals. No other cases were detected.

Elsewhere in the country, however, disease is spreading like wildfire, raising fears of an exodus of infected animals.

An explosion in the West

Twenty farms in Saskatchewan and Alberta were infected in 2020, up from nine in 2019, according to data from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In 2018, six farms were affected, including those in Quebec.

“Another case could happen at any time,” the FQCP warned in an urgent letter addressed to the Minister of Wildlife of Quebec in November, but it remained unanswered.

Quebec hunters join colleagues in Ontario and the Alliance for Public Wildlife, a Western organization that has for years campaigned for the abolition of breeding.

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Daryl Rowdidge, a general wildlife biologist and president of the alliance, says household pressure on wild animals and changing their diet harms the immune system.

However, living in a community within containers exposes them to more pathogens and parasites than nature. For the Public Wildlife Alliance, these enclosures are incubators and amplifiers for diseases that spawn epidemics that are impossible to contain.

Human drama

But Marcel Gullio, president of the Agricultural Producers Association (UPA), asserts that “control measures are more stringent in Quebec than they are in the West.”

UPA stresses that all slaughtered deer must be tested and that the 2018 mass slaughter campaign has paid off.

“There is a way to control the disease, as we did with the crazy cows,” says Mr Groleau. Eliminating farms also means eliminating breeders. It is a human drama. These are the people who put their whole life into their business. There is nothing that can make up for it. ”

What is chronic wasting disease?

  • Mad deer disease is an incurable disease that resembles mad cow disease
  • Results in progressive degenerative disorders
  • Because the protein is transformed into an altered form called a prion
  • Prions diffuse into feces, body fluids, and through direct contact

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