A 65-year-old Krestova woman has been ordered by Interior Health to stop processing poultry without a licence.
Willow Carr was served with a prohibition order requiring her to stop handling other people’s birds — something she’s done for over 20 years said farmer Jim Ross.
Carr is nearing retirement and has been processing poultry since before regulations limited her livelihood. Ross has had the woman slaughter his turkeys and chickens for five years.
“She runs a clean shop and has done our birds for years,” he said. “Willow does a very nice job.”
Interior Health received a complaint about Carr’s operation and Manager of Environmental Health Kevin Touchet explained that the order was issued in light of public health concerns.
“We have an obligation to follow up on a complaint,” he said. “We’ve asked the operator to cease until such time that she can get licensed.”
While someone can slaughter their own animals for private use without certification, a licence is required to butcher on a commercial basis — when meat is for sale. It would also be allowable for a third party to slaughter chickens at the farm where they are raised.
“This allows for some flexibility,” said Touchet. “People who want to have more control over the slaughter portion of their own birds can do that if they want to handle it privately on their own property. Or get someone to come in and assist them with their own birds.”
Carr doesn’t butcher for commercial sale and is adamant about that. She’s fast, consistent and affordable, said Ross, which is likely why many in the Slocan Valley trust her and take advantage of her skill set.
Valley residents are upset that the woman is in trouble despite being a “stand-up agri-mentor for this community” who is nearing retirement, said one woman on the Facebook page Farm the Kootenays.
Many are rallying behind Carr as they want the freedom to seek out butchering services outside industry regulation. Ross said that laws aren’t about protection.
“They’re not really protecting me. How do they protect me?” he asked. “If I chose to use someone’s service, I personally take responsibility. I go in knowing those birds aren’t inspected but I also go in knowing my friends have been going there for years. That’s how I met Willow.”
Touchet explained laws exists to make sure that there is a minimum standard established for the slaughter of animals to ensure resulting food is safe to eat, he said.
“There are a lot of things that could go wrong if the animals are not properly slaughtered, potential for contamination, etcetera,” he said.
Penalties for breaking these laws vary greatly with up to $50,000 fines possible. In this instance, no fines or other enforcement were handed out because Carr was polite and cooperative with environmental health inspectors who visited her operation, said Touchet.
“We try and use the minimal level of enforcement we need for compliance,” he said. “When people are cooperating there really is no need to go to the full extent of the law.”
The manager of environmental health said there are licensed facilities available at a two-hour drive within the region.
Ross explained that Carr has decided to take her operation “portable” to honour commitments made this season but working this way isn’t her preferred method.
“This makes no sense at all,” he said. “Her operation, as it is, is going to be a lot more put together than if she loads everything into a trailer and drives it to someone’s place and sets up. Ultimately in the end, what is the difference? It’s a physical locality.”
After this season, Carr plans to retire.