Cull entire pig herd, Alberta farmer urges
The owner of an Alberta pig farm placed under quarantine by Canadian authorities because some of the animals were sick with swine flu said Monday he doesn't understand why his entire herd wasn't culled right away.
"It's a small farm. Take the pressure off everybody. I think even off the whole world, over the whole pig industry, everywhere. Get rid of the herd," Arnold Van Ginkel said in his first media interview. "It's already going on over nine, 10 days? It's a waste of time and money."
All 2,200 of Van Ginkel's pigs on his farm near Rocky Mountain House, Alta., were placed under quarantine in late April after some of his animals became sick with the new strain of the H1N1 influenza A virus. It's believed the animals caught the illness from a carpenter who had recently travelled to Mexico.
Van Ginkel said he is frustrated and angry with officials who appear not to know what the next steps should be and what they should do about his herd, which remains under quarantine.
"They should have a plan. They don't," he said. "They don't know what to do. Leave me behind and they tell me nothing."
On Friday, 500 of the animals were destroyed to help ease overcrowding. Van Ginkel hasn't been able to ship any of his animals since the quarantine was put in place. He said that he fears he'll never be able to sell any of them, and that delaying a decision to cull the entire herd is hurting the entire Canadian pork industry.
"Government, please make a decision. Don't wait and sit back. Help the whole industry. Help our farm," he said.
In Edmonton, Alberta Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld said the matter is now being decided by provincial, not federal, officials because the health of the herd is not a food safety issue covered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The province has been in regular contact with Van Ginkel, Groeneveld said.
"I think we've been in pretty close touch with him and his family and particularly our chief provincial vets pretty much, and CFIA," Groeneveld said. "I can understand his frustration, but we've been in the game here right from Day 1."
When asked whether the herd should have been culled right away, Groeneveld said he didn't know.
"It's a 50-50 proposition. If he gets from under quarantine very quickly, I expect not. But, you know, hindsight is pretty easy on this one," he said.
In the end, Van Ginkel said, he will probably have to destroy his herd anyway because he doubts anyone will want to buy his animals. His expectation of breaking even this year may need to be adjusted, he said, even though he was compensated for the animals that were destroyed last week.