One million chickens euthanized due to labor dispute in Quebec

The leader of an association representing Quebec chicken farmers says it is unacceptable that a million chickens were euthanized during a protracted labor dispute at a slaughterhouse near Quebec.

The Exceldor cooperative closed its slaughterhouse in St-Ansèlme, Quebec, south of the provincial capital, on May 23 due to a strike, leaving few options for chicken farmers.

Pierre-Luc Leblanc, president of Éleveurs de Volailles du Québec – the association of chicken producers in the province – said he had never received as many calls and messages from members as in recent weeks , not knowing how to handle the situation.

“People tell me they are offended, crazy and sad,” he said. “It is not an easy situation because there are not many solutions for us.”

The Leblanc association represents more than 700 producers, mostly family businesses, who operate according to strict rules.

“There are rules for producers: when you transport the chickens, you can only have a mortality rate of 1%. If you go beyond that, you can get a fine for animal cruelty, ”Leblanc said. “But right now, we are allowing so many chickens to be killed.”

The union and the company confirmed that one million discarded chickens would have provided up to four million meals.

The union said the strike has forced Quebec producers to send euthanized chickens either to landfills or to a rendering plant, where they can be made into products not intended for human consumption.

Exceldor spokesperson Jordan Ouellet said the company was trying to send as many chickens as possible to other slaughterhouses in Quebec or Ontario.

One million # chickens # euthanized during a labor dispute at the # Quebec slaughterhouse.

“The problem is, at some point after 35 days, when the chickens reach a certain weight, they’re ready to be processed,” Ouellet said. “But beyond that, they continue to grow and the infrastructure is not made for these sizes.”

Prime Minister François Legault described the situation in a Facebook post on Wednesday as a “shame that must end”.

Legault urged both sides to accept the province’s offer of an arbitrator to help resolve the case, noting that waste accounts for 13 percent of the province’s chicken production tossed in the trash.

“Workers have the right to strike and employers have the right to lock out. But we should not be allowed to waste huge amounts of food so stupidly. It is indecent,” said Legault.

The company and the union representing its striking employees continued discussions on Thursday.

Exceldor welcomed Quebec’s offer, first made on Tuesday by Labor Minister Jean Boulet, but the union refused, saying it would prefer to continue negotiations with a conciliator rather than let a third party impose a collective agreement. .

Slaughterhouse workers have been without a contract since July 2020 and have been on strike for more than three weeks, with wages and working conditions being the main sticking points.

“We must give the conciliation process a chance,” said Roxane Larouche, spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. “Of course we are sensitive to food waste, there is no one who wants that. But it is the employer’s responsibility.”

Boulet agreed in an interview Thursday that the high rate of euthanasia and food waste made the situation even more urgent, but was convinced both sides understood the human and social repercussions and hoped they would soon find common ground. .

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 17, 2021.

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