Alberta Action On CWD Ignores The Cause

Scientists: "Must Include the Elimination of Game Farming"

Alberta Wilderness Association

News Release: March 15, 2005

The Alberta government's recently announced plan to stem the advance of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) by culling deer near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border seems at least a small step toward recognizing the seriousness of the situation. However, in the absence of vastly more substantive action to eliminate the source of the disease - game farming - scientists and conservation organizations point out that the move is woefully inadequate.

"CWD has been fostered and spread by game farming," says Darrel Rowledge, President of the Alliance for Public Wildlife. "Yet this cull of wild deer is announced on the heels of the same government reopening our border to game farm imports, and quietly announcing millions in additional subsidies for an industry that they know is dangerous and hopelessly uneconomic."

World-renowned wildlife expert Dr. Valerius Geist says "Government must - first and foremost - eliminate game farming." While acknowledging the need for aggressive action, including a cull, Professor Geist warned that "without a cull on the other side of the border, there is a risk of drawing in diseased deer from Saskatchewan, potentially spreading CWD to Alberta even faster."

As well, the long term effectiveness of the cull is in question because of the nature of the pathogen. "CWD prions have remarkable resistance and can contaminate the environment for years," says Vivian Pharis, Alberta Wilderness Association, Director. "CWD scientists in the U.S. eradicated all their deer, removed top soil and used strong disinfectants in their facilities, and then left them vacant for long periods but when they reintroduced healthy animals they became diseased," she adds.

Given the substantial prevalence of CWD on Saskatchewan game farms (some 8000 animals had to be destroyed, 40 game farms were proven infected), and the spread to the wild (some 57 cases already confirmed) it is clear that our governments must take this situation very seriously, and coordinate their actions. It must begin with the complete elimination of game farming in Canada-with reasonable compensation for game farmers. All animals must be destroyed and tested; meat should be salvaged where appropriate; and fences should be removed only where and when appropriate.

A long term plan to eliminate CWD in wildlife must be coordinated and enacted as early as possible, and must be fully funded for long term surveillance and monitoring, carcass removal and additional measures as required.

For further information, contact:
Darrel Rowledge: (403) 284-5927