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By BETTER FARMING STAFF
Clarification: The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs "entrusted" the Farm Animal Council with up to $100,000 to euthanize unwanted birds after Pigeon King International collapsed last June, program coordinator Kelly Daynard told Better Farming on Monday. The $90,000 figure comes from a report on the aftermath of the collapse of Pigeon King International that Farm Animal Council executive director Crystal Mackay made to stakeholders last week.
The Farm Animal Council, used the money to pay for plastic and insulation to seal barns and gas to euthanize the birds. Not included in those costs is the manpower provided by partners in the endeavour: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Egg Farmers of Ontario, and the Ontario SPCA.
Waterloo, Ontario-based Pigeon King International sold breeding stock to farmers under contract and bought back offspring at lucrative prices. Owned by Arlan Galbraith, PKI was incorporated in February of 2007 and declared bankrupt in late June, 2008, leaving roughly 1,000 investors in Canada and the United States with worthless pigeons.
The holding barns served as warehouse, sorting and distribution centres for birds that Pigeon King International bought back from breeders. Holding barn operators were most desperate when PKI failed because they had huge feed bills and no income. Not only were the birds were of a size not unusable in the squab market, many were on medicated feed.
The Farm Animal Council report estimated 138,000 birds were euthanized by sealing six holding barns and introducing gas. In barns where sealing wasn’t possible, another 34,000 birds were caught and killed using cervical dislocation. At one barn in the Cornwall area, 13,000 birds were caught and euthanized over four days.
Egg Farmers of Ontario donated use of its staff. Ontario SPCA ensured humane euthanasia was implemented. Mackay recommended that in future euthanizations, "mental health or grief counselors" should be onsite. "From the viewpoint of the farmers, these birds represented an enormous financial investment and in some cases they were thought of as pets." BF