The Harrisonburg City Council expects to review a draft urban chicken ordinance at their July 14 meeting. Jeff Mellott's article on RocktownWeekly.com shows the concerns expressed by "some citizens" in Harrisonburg are the stereotypical ones we hear voiced every time a city considers legalizing chickens: reduced property values, attracting vermin, smells, poop, enforcement costs.
Andy Schneider, the Chicken Whisperer, does a masterful job of addressing each of these concerns in the first comment in response to the article. It's a shame to see many of the comments following his post seem to be of the fingers-in-ears-singing-"LALALALA! I don't hear you" variety.
But the element of the story what caught my eye: the former vice mayor, who happens to be a poultry industry executive, has voiced worries about the spread of disease to commercial flocks on the big farming operations that surround Harrisonburg.
I've blogged about protecting urban chickens from avian flu before, and I don't mean to diminish the concerns of the commercial chicken operator, but I'd love to see some actual proof that a backyard flock has led to the infection of a commercial flock. The only stories I've heard have been of the "the commercial chickens were sick so they eradicated all the backyard flocks, too."
Without that proof, I can't help but think this is simply a political play to protect the interests of commercial agriculture (Think security theater) at the expense of backyard flock enthusiasts.
Can anyone cite a story of backyard-to-commercial transmission of avian flu? I'd love to have a civil discussion about this so we can inform each other.