The article below appeared in the February 20th Ottawa Citizen, and was brought to my attention by the Barfblog. The article states that this group butchers its own meat because they find it more economical (OK, I get that) and believe the meat to be safer than commercial meat (keyword: believe). Yes, this is a church group and they say that their home-butchering practices are not related to their religious beliefs.
Member of church group defends butchering of meat as safe, economical
A Carlsbad Springs man who belongs to a group of churchgoers who butcher their own meat to ensure its safety is facing a string of charges under Ontario’s food safety law.
Mark Tijssen, a major in the Canadian Forces, is to appear in court next month to face charges of running an unlicensed slaughterhouse, failing to have an animal inspected both before and after slaughter, and distributing meat. If found guilty, Tijssen could face up to $100,000 in fines.
The charges arose after a friend of Tijssen’s left his property on Nov. 11, 2009 with about 18 kilograms of pork. The two had jointly bought a pig and slaughtered it.
At the time, Tijssen said he was not aware that food safety laws enacted between 2001 and 2005 had banned his group’s practices. He said he was hoping investigators would be satisfied the group has since stopped slaughtering and distributing meat amongst themselves.
“I really hoped common sense would prevail,” Tijssen said Thursday.
Tijssen’s house had been under surveillance for several days last November before officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ottawa police stopped the car and confiscated the meat.
Under Ontario’s Food Safety and Quality Act, it is permissible to butcher an animal if the food is for the person’s own family and none of the meat leaves the property where it was butchered. This allows farmers to raise their own food. It is against the law, however, to distribute the meat to anyone else.
Tijssen said he has butchered his own meat for years and cuts food costs by occasionally buying and butchering animals with a group of friends from his church. The members also have little faith in the safety of commercial meat products.
He said Ontario should have launched an education campaign to advise people that the laws had changed regarding jointly slaughtering and distributing meat.
“Instead, they keep score by penalties. They are not looking at prevention, they are not doing any public education, but they are very large on enforcement and punishment,” said Tijssen.
Ontario’s rules on butchering and distribution of meat for personal use go far beyond those of other provinces, said Ron Doering, an Ottawa lawyer and former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Doering said Sask-atchewan, for example, has no provincial regulation and Newfoundland and Labrador has few regulations, while Quebec and British Columbia more closely resemble Ontario’s inspection regime.
Doering was also the lead counsel on the provincial commission that produced the new rules for handling meat.
“Frankly, I’m not too sure how well known it is, that they have decided for purposes of public health to apply these rules even in the case of own use. In many other provinces, the provincial government has chosen not to regulate in this area.”
Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said the ministry moderates its enforcement of meat handling rules for religious or ethnic reasons, for example, when Muslims slaughter animals for religious reasons.
“Our inspectors play an educational role as part of their duty. That being said, if they come across a threat to food safety, they have to act because the health and safety of all Ontarians is the ministry’s primary concern,” he said.
Tijssen and his friends from Faith Anglican Church say religion plays no part in their butchering practices. They just want economical and safe meat.
Tijssen said his case is similar to that of Ontario raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt, who recently won a 16-year legal battle against Ontario regulators who want to prevent him from distributing his raw milk. He had set up a sharing agreement, somewhat like a co-operative, that the court found was not subject to provincial rules.