Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Waterloo editors strongly against urban chickens

The editorial board of Canadian paper The Record has come out strongly against the idea of urban chickens in Waterloo, Canada (pop: ~ 97,000; see on larger map.)

In their April 10 editorial, they express what can only be a strong bias against things rural in their observation, "[t]his is the 21st century, not the 19th. Times have changed. And the 21st century Canadian city is for people, not livestock. That's what the countryside -- with its agricultural zoning -- is for."

Wow, I'm stunned to see such a blatant misunderstanding of the situation.

People aren't trying to raise large flocks of birds in their small backyards. We're talking half a dozen birds, max, if Waterloo follows the more liberal interpretation of allowable urban chicken flock sizes. But, as is the custom of folks arguing against the idea of chickens in the city, the editors invoke shocking images of chook owners gone wild in trying to make their point.

To illustrate the anti-chicken bias in the editorial, I've re-written one of their supporting paragraphs with my minor changes (italicized) transferring their observations to another animal we see a lot of in the city:
Then, imagine the potential for the noise of barking dogs, their odours and their excrement to annoy the neighbours. Dogs can carry diseases. Dogs can bother people with allergies. Dogs can attract predators. Dog food can attract rodents. All this is bad. And all very different from what goes on in a backyard vegetable patch.
All the above is true, right? Then why is it acceptable that dogs can impact neighbours in just this way, but if you substitute in "chickens" for "dogs" we're talking a whole new ball game and need to clamp down. The editors continue:

So, while there's no reason to doubt the sincerity or good intentions of the would-be chicken farmers, their plan is neither reasonable nor feasible for the city of Waterloo.

That, by the way, is merely this newspaper's view. If Waterloo city hall wants to explore this idea, it should consider a bylaw that sets extremely stringent conditions for raising chickens in backyards. But before that, why doesn't it try polling the community?

This is their best idea in the whole piece. Why not ask folks what they think? Maybe we can break down these urban/rural stereotypes that seem to flash to the forefront whenever someone challenges the anti-chicken status quo.

If we can peacefully co-exist with chickens here in California, what's so different about you folks up in Ontario?


Linda said...

I saw that editorial, too, and was not surprised by it. I've heard similar comments here in Chicago from colleagues at work, even. As long as people persist in thinking in simple equations (city MUST = concrete and steel; country MUST = open spaces and farms) we'll continue to be trapped in this totally unsustainable lifestyle.

Three Hats said...

We used to live in the Kitchener/Waterloo area and this article surprises me as the city is already rich with "agriculture culture" :) due to their proximity to an area called St. Jacobs. The Amish population frequents town with buggies and such. Not to mention that it was this region as well that is currently going through the whole raw milk debate with a local farmer.


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