Neighbours oppose North Saanich poultry processing plant

Kildonan Farm's Murray Hull hopes to battle greenhouse gas emissions by opening a slaughterhouse on his chicken and turkey farm

Murray Hull

Murray Hull

At Murray Hull’s Kildonan Farm, ladders and measuring tapes take residence in the shed next to his house. The start of a wooden frame for an expanded area protrudes to the right. It’s one step toward the poultry abattoir Hull hopes to build to process chickens and turkeys locally.

Meanwhile, some neighbouring residents are doing work of their own, gathering fuel in hopes of stopping Hull’s progress.

“We are deeply concerned that without proper disposal offsite, we will soon be dealing with a rat infestation and a contaminated water supply as all the properties on upper Munro [Road] are on wells,” said John Upward, who lives close to Kildonan Farm Fine Foods.

Upward presented a letter with 18 signatures opposing the abattoir to North Saanich council Monday, hoping the district could intervene.

At his farm, Hull said he’s wading through the necessary channels for a legal slaughterhouse.

“We just want to do what’s right for our farm, for the community, for our customers,” he said.

Eighteen months ago, Hull applied for a Class A licence to run a slaughterhouse through the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. That was approved two months ago. The licence allows processors to sell their products to retailers.

One condition of that licence is that Hull must expand his current processing shed. It will include an office, bathroom and a kill-scald-pluck room. There, the unwanted product and blood are collected.

To do that expansion, Hull contacted North Saanich staff. Many of his buildings are non-conforming to zoning rules.

“There are some infractions. He’s told me he’s going to try to correct them,” Mark Brodrick, North Saanich’s director of planning and community services, said.

Hull also contacted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. An inspector must be present at all times when killing and processing are underway.

Lyle Young, owner of Island Farmhouse Poultry in Cowichan Bay which has operated for eight years, explained the inspector “looks at every bird that goes past. He also has the responsibility to make sure that the facility is up to snuff. We couldn’t get approval to build until we had the inspector.”

According to the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Code of Practice for the Slaughter and Poultry Processing Industries, “A person engaged in the slaughter industry … who introduces solid waste or semi-solid waste into the environment  must  discharge or dispose of [it] … in a landfill” among other options.

Hull has an agreement with a disposal company in Nanaimo, who agreed to haul the waste away.

Under the same document, the operator “must not discharge wastewater directly into groundwater or into a watercourse.” Records of water used and production volumes must be kept.

Neighbour concerns go further. Upward, Nancy Eaton and others say Hull has been slaughtering poultry – more than what is normal for his family’s consumption – for years.

Hull admits he operated a slaughter plant without a licence, but that was before licences were required by the disease control centre. He’s since stopped, he said.

“I’ve seen [in a video] trucks coming in from other farms bringing animals in to slaughter,” Eaton told the Peninsula News Review.

“I doubt it,” Hull responded.

He applied for the slaughterhouse licence to do things the right way from now on, he said.

“The thing that’s getting missed here is even if what they say is 100 per cent true, that’s in the past. What we’re trying to do is get a plan here that will address those things. That was in the past and we want to move forward and address all of these things.”


Poultry mathematics

Hull hopes to run his plant:

• 1-2 times a month in November and January to March,

• once a week in April,

• 1-2 times a week in May to October,

• and process 100-300 birds per day while operating.

• His turkey processor in Abbotsford returned 42 per cent of Hull’s 700 birds as utility last Thanksgiving. “The loss of revenue from that disaster was immense.”


Who watches what

• B.C. Centre for Disease Control: issues licence to operate, inspects abattoirs

• Ministry of Environment: regulates waste disposal and water use

• Vancouver Island Health Authority: oversees water quality

• District of North Saanich: approves building permits and the future business licence

• Canada Food Inspection Agency: assigns an inspector to be present during processing

• Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Land Commission: allowing types of farming activities allowed, including slaughter


Why a slaughterhouse?

Murray Hull’s poultry are currently processed at Lyle Young’s Island Farmhouse Poultry, about 100 kilometres away in Cowichan Bay and at a processing plant in Abbotsford.

Hull wants to process his poultry, and that of other farmers, locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.