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News Story
Updated: 10/23/2013 08:00:03AM

The trouble with chickens: Part Three

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Nicolas Smith

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City commissioners recently agreed to study relaxation of city ordinances regulating animal husbandry and truck farming within city limits. This third article discusses the moral benefits, social costs, and public health consequences.

There is no question that growing vegetables and raising animals has immediate benefits to those who consume fresh organic food. This is a growing trend. The problems come from improper cleaning and slaughtering, and the mishandling of animal waste. When mistakes are confined to a family farm, the public impact is minimal unless the farm sells commercial vegetables, like Colorado with 33 deaths. The fundamental issue here is whether grandma should be allowed to raise chickens in town, in order to feed herself. While I could have a lengthy discussion how this proposal confirms the horrid condition of our social safety net for the poor and elderly, that discussion is for another time. If someone could guarantee that no one would get sick or die from disease or confrontation, I would support this effort. If someone could guarantee that we won’t find a poisoned coyote in Kiwanis Park with a pile of vultures spreading contaminated meat everywhere, I would support this effort. If someone could guarantee that the taxpayers will not suffer expense and our public workers not suffer harm, I would support this effort. But as we know, there are no guarantees in life.

My own experience with this issue arose as soon as I took occupancy. My house, as well as my neighbors, had a rat infestation. Apparently they were from a large family nest on Cephia Street, which was near a chicken coop. I could have my information wrong on the last part, but the rats were quite real.

Do the risks outweigh the benefits? I discussed how the “users” won’t necessarily follow the rules of any relaxation, which initiates the risk cycle. I’ve discussed how the proposal could and would lead to contamination vectors that pose health threats to the populace. I’ve discussed the specific bacteria from animal waste and their associated human diseases. 2,500 to 3,000 people die every year on average from diseases caused by food poisoning. Every year. That’s 60 for Florida. The real question becomes, how much social and moral benefit is your child or grandchild’s life worth? Can you trust your neighbor or that stranger up the street to protect your child from fecal contamination? To the mayor and commissioners. How much is grandma’s or some child’s life worth? All it takes is one bad mistake by someone you don’t control to start the vector, just like that church member with measles in Texas. Do any of you want a death or disease outbreak on your conscience? I strongly recommend animal husbandry not be allowed.

Discussion of vegetable gardens presents the issue of unregulated use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, and rodent control poisons. Water flows downhill and excessive chemicals will end up in the watersheds. The commissioners recently agreed to a SWFWMD storm water retention basin in Lake Wailes Park at a taxpayer expense over $50,000, to reduce pollutants. Is it sensible to agree to spend our money to clean up Lake Wailes on the west side, then turn around and allow increases of polluted run off from the other sides? It doesn’t make sense to me. I strongly recommend against unfettered, unregulated, and uncontrolled truck farming within the city limits.

Nicholas Smith is a resident of Lake Wales.


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