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A New Debate?

A New Debate?


February 12, 2008
By Kristy Nudds


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A Nova Scotia woman’s fight to keep her backyard chickens has, in my view, raised some interesting questions and observations.

A Nova Scotia woman’s fight to keep her backyard chickens has, in my view, raised some interesting questions and observations.

In late January, Louise Hanavan, a resident of central Halifax, was ordered by the city to get rid of her “pets” – three hens that she had been housing in her backyard for several months.

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The order resulted from complaints from Hanavan’s neighbours, who said that rats were attracted to the chicken feed.
The 25-year-old chicken lover said in a report in the Halifax Daily News that keeping the chickens was “an environmental thing. Cities need to be producing some food.” According to Hanavan the chickens were happy in a backyard coop, and she used the eggs for food and the manure for her vegetable garden.

So what’s the problem here?  Is there one?  According to many readers of the Halifax Daily News, there isn’t one.  Response to the initial article on Hanavan’s battle was overwhelmingly positive, with readers writing on the website comments such as, “What’s the harm?” and “It’s good for the environment to raise our own food.” Those opposed complained about the stench, rat problem, and absurdity of it all.

Even Nova Scotia’s  agriculture minister, Brooke Taylor, joined in the fight, although his comments did not make much more sense than many of the ramblings by Daily News readers.  

Taylor was quoted as saying that, “It seems you’re allowed to keep boas and pythons and sometimes, in some cases, there’s allegations of dangerous dogs and things of that nature. So let’s not be too harsh and too heavy-handed on Louise Hanavan.” 

What kind of comment is this?  I think it’s a ludicrous statement and reveals how uneducated our supposed “agriculture” ministers are on some issues.  I don’t think comparing chickens to reptiles is really the point here. I’m hoping the Halifax Daily News reporter just caught Taylor on a bad day. 

Despite his silly comment, Taylor did say that he hoped the city council would consider allowing residents to keep a few birds for personal use. Hmm… maybe he does get the point. 

“Urban poultry proponents” – supporters of Hanavan’s position, including members from the food committee of Nova Scotia environmental lobby group the Ecology Action Centre, plan to rally Halifax city council to legalize backyard poultry. 

In another newspaper report, the council is cited as saying it will determine at a meeting in mid-February whether or not allowing homeowners to keep poultry is a “legitimate pursuit.” They have already agreed to push back the date originally set (Jan. 31) for Hanavan  to remove the birds by a month to Feb. 29.

With the agriculture minister and environmental groups by her side, Hanavan just may be the catalyst local food supporters, environmentalists and animal rights activists throughout the country have been waiting for.

If successful in the fight with city council, the door has been opened for other cities and municipalities to follow. As Hanavan claimed, “If people in New York City and Victoria can keep hens, I don’t see why Halifax can’t.” 

This will be an interesting story to keep your eye on.  The battle could result in nothing and be the flavour of yesterday, or could be a signal of what’s to come in the ever-increasing urban-rural divide.


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