Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On ignorant editors at The Globe and Mail

Today's Globe and Mail editorial about urban chickens, Coming Home to Roost, was so rife with misinformation I had to read it twice and double-check the URL to make sure I wasn't being punk'd.

Setting aside the pun-filled opening paragraph (LOLz), the editors really went off the rails here in paragraph three:
In jurisdictions where urban chickens are permitted, there is an increase in complaints about smells and flies, though advocates provide assurances that these can be addressed by properly cleaning chicken coops and properly composting manure. There are also concerns over an increase in disease, notably avian flu, although we are again assured that, if coops are properly built and maintained to make sure chickens are protected from fecal matter dropped by birds flying overhead, disease need not be a problem.
Let's break these observations down, shall we?

The editors cite an "increase in complaints about smells and flies" where urban chickens are permitted. Where there are more animals and excrement, there's bound to be more chances for offended citizens to complain. But was this an increase of 5 complaints (about all non-fowl animals) to 6 (including chickens)? or 5 complaints to 50? Opponents would gladly have you assume the latter, but chances are much greater it's the former. I'd love The Globe and Mail to back their assertion up with statistics (in fact, I challenge them to do so!).

And the assertion that we're in danger of an increase in disease, notably avian flu, if we don't protect urban chickens from fecal matter dropped by birds flying overhead is mind-numbingly absurd! This observation bares the editors' ignorance of how diseases are transmitted between birds (and then to humans?). But this "protect from above" assertion conjures up a fantastic movie plot for how a pandemic might start: think flocks of infected sparrows dive-bombing their infected poo on captive chickens across the country sparking an avian flu epidemic that wipes out all of Ontario. Those damn chickens.

Cue the eye roll.

Given all the challenges that large-scale agri-business presents in protecting our food supply from contamination and in the impacts of long-haul shipping on the carbon footprint of our food, the G&M editors would find a way to encourage citizens to take back a piece of their food independence through legalizing urban chickens.

Instead, we're enforced to endure yet another round of puns and hyperbole on the editorial pages one of Canada's largest newspapers.

No wonder the effort to legalize urban chickens across Canada is on such a slow train.


kate smudges said...

I couldn't help myself ~ left a comment on the silly G & M piece. It gets me angry when people don't do their research and instead rely on old arguments. These were the same points made by opponents of chickens here in Regina. On Monday evening, City Council banned the raising of livestock (incl. chickens) within city limits. Strangely, it's still possible to own chickens as long as they are pets. Won't that be a fun bylaw to enforce?

Hybrid Hopes said...

I left a note too. Was that an editorial from the editors? If so, inexcusable in its lack of any research. If it was a letter from a reader, still really stupid and shouldn't have wasted space on the internet for it.

Thomas Kriese said...

I'd hope it wasn't an editorial from the editors, but I didn't see anything to indicate it was from anyone but.

Even stranger is the lengthy article that ran just yesterday talking about the illegal urban chicken population in sympathetic terms. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/city-residents-illegally-keep-chickens/article1194150/

I think I've got whiplash!

Hybrid Hopes said...

by the by, a chicken related tangent... i've got a contest on my blog. folks can win a copy of Keep Chickens: Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces. it's at


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