PAWS visit beef farm following ‘wild accusations,’ farmer says
NORWOOD — John Lunn believes that somebody in his community has a beef with him — and is showing their displeasure by calling provincial authorities to complain about his cow-calf-to-finishing operation. He says the latest upshot was a visit from an officer with Ontario’s animal police, who nonetheless found everything in order at the farm.
“I had a great experience with a good inspector. He didn’t see any issues or anything,” says Lunn, a lifetime beef producer who also serves as a Beef Farmers of Ontario advisory councillor. “This guy was unbelievable, nice to deal with, a super, super guy. He did his due diligence, looked around … asked to see my logs, which is no big deal.”
However, those making complaints without cause shouldn’t get off scot-free, according to Lunn, who feeds a herd of 200 cattle and sells freezer beef after having the animals slaughtered at a licenced abattoir. He believes a “neighbour or a competitor” is responsible for the complaints.
“These are bogus calls that are getting frustrating,” he says. Four complaints about his farm have been called in to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) over the last two years, he says, with two or three of those received in the last few months. It was this last group of calls that prompted the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) officer to visit for 45 minutes on June 30.
“Whether it’s OMAFRA or PAWS, they must act on these calls,” Lunn explains, while unhappily highlighting the lack of accountability for those triggering the investigations. When the caller is “proven wrong, continuously, why isn’t there something done about this? It’s a waste of taxpayers money and time.”
He rhymes off several “wild accusations” he has learned were made in the calls. When his newborn calves stopped appearing in the yard by his barn, the caller assumed they had died, according to Lunn. In fact, he had simply moved the young stock onto pasture to graze with the rest of the herd, after they were properly started and ready for the field. He says the caller incorrectly alleged that his bull didn’t have access to food, water and shelter, when it actually did. The caller also wrongfully claimed his farmyard was too full and too dirty.
A couple of years ago, he adds, an OMAFRA official visited the farm to verify that his cattle were slaughtered at a licenced abattoir because of an erroneous call.
Lunn takes the recent PAWS visit in stride and says he at least learned a valuable fact during his chat with the officer: Law allows PAWS to conduct a surprise inspection at any farm selling freezer beef, eggs or any kind of meat from the farm gate, he says. “Even someone just selling a few eggs.”
He suspects that, eventually, all farms retailing meat will be subject to an annual inspection from PAWS. In some ways, it would be more of the same. Lunn points out that his freezer-beef facility is already scrutinized twice a year by his local health unit.