© AgMedia Inc.
by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A former Pigeon King International (PKI) sales consultant won’t provide details but he continues to claim that the chicken industry conspired to put his former employer out of business and that a possible new venture is being targeted by the same conspirators.
“We know because there was people at our meeting on Saturday that were part of that (marketing) board,” Wagler told Better Farming in an interview last Thursday. “They were brought in and they were taking notes.”
Wagler said he has been told who “they” were but declined to reveal their identity or the name of the individual who told him about their attendance, apparently after the fact.
Held June 21 in Stratford, shortly after the PKI collapse, the meeting was intended to establish plans for short-term support and discuss the possibility of building a business venture using the pigeons left behind. Chicken Farmers of Ontario board members deny that they attended the meeting via subterfuge or that pigeon meat is a considered a threat to chicken markets.
“There is no conspiracy” against pigeon raisers, says Chicken Farmers of Ontario board member John Maaskant, Clinton, chair of the Ontario Farm Animal Council. Maaskant says there were poultry industry people at the June 21 meeting. “The group (of breeders) allowed them to be there.” Turkey, chicken, and egg farming groups were concerned because of early reports that pigeon breeders, with no market, might release their flocks into the wild. The boards have staff experienced in how to euthanise birds and want to help, he says.
Former chicken board chairman Murray Booy, Aylmer, also rules out any worry about squab displacing chicken at the meat counter. He says he hasn’t missed a board meeting in 10 years and the topic of Pigeon King International and pigeon breeding has never been raised.
Media and members of the public were banned from the June 21 meeting of PKI growers and, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by Better Farming, breeders were advised to avoid media representatives waiting outside. More than 200 breeders and family members waited in line outside the meeting room to have their names checked off against a list of breeders but others may have entered the room before security was put in place. It’s estimated that the business’ collapse stranded between 250,000 and 400,000 birds or more in the barns of about 300 contract holders in Ontario alone.
Interviewed in May, Arlan Galbraith, PKI’s owner, estimated the number of contract holders to be around 1,000, located in Ontario, three Prairie provinces and throughout the United States.
Wagler said it’s not over for former Pigeon King investors. “There’s things happening. Positive things,” Wagler said, but declined to comment further.
“There’s too much at stake here,” he said, adding later in the interview that the group is also experiencing political pressure. “Why should we talk when everything I tell you will sabotage what we’re doing?”
Wagler reiterated that his former employer, Galbraith, had told him that the “big players are not going to roll over and play dead; they’re not going to want me in this marketplace.”
“And now we’re finding the same thing. It’s like David fighting Goliath.”
When asked if there were parallels that could be drawn between the collapse of the emu market in Canada in the mid-1990s and the collapse of PKI, Wagler said no.
And although he said he hasn’t ever owned emus he notes that before that industry collapsed those animals had been owned individually; there hadn’t been a single company contracting breeding like PKI was.
By contrast, with pigeons, “there’s big players around the world involved in this. There’s markets that are unfolding, unbelievable markets.”
Wagler wouldn’t comment on reports that an unnamed processor, who he claimed is “begging” contract holders not to euthanise their birds because of their potential to be marketed in international markets, holds a federal processing license.
Minutes of the meeting, obtained by Better Farming, indicate that a federally licensed plant, allegedly located near London, has shown interest in butchering breeders’ birds.
The federal government must approve plants where animal products are processed if they are to be sold in other provinces or outside the country. Better Farming has been told that, currently, the only federal plants licensed to process pigeon squab are located in British Columbia. BF Copyright AgMedia Inc.
Notice from Arlan Galbraith
PKI bookkeeper Joan Carter's "Final letter"
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs pigeon information page