“Boileau deer, there will be no more”

The “mad deer disease” got the better of Boileau’s deer: 100 days after the first diagnosis, the company has just slaughtered its last animal and, in doing so, has reduced to nothing 20 years of work to develop a gastronomic product. of renown.

Updated December 21st. 2018

PHILIPPE TEISCEIRA-LESSARD
THE PRESS

Denis Ferrer, the company’s director, puts it bluntly: now that the 3,500 red deer in the farm are dead, “it’s over.” No one will want to risk re-injecting funds and years to restart a project under the threat of a sword of Damocles.

“It’s very disappointing, mainly because of the way it ends: very abruptly, overnight,” he resigned in an interview with the newspaper. The press. ” Were realized [mercredi]. The rancher regretted that the health authorities had quickly overturned the guillotine of the business, without giving him a chance to save the furniture.

“We wanted to keep the seed, but the agency [canadienne d’inspection des aliments] refused, he continued. Boileau deer, there will be no more. »

Industry-wide impact

The fall of the industry’s standard-bearer has repercussions on all deer breeders for slaughter in Quebec: the president of his association, Gaétan Lehoux, speaks of a “crisis” and calls for a program of assistance from governments, like the one put in place during epidemics of mad cow disease or scrapie.

The sudden arrival of hundreds of deer carcasses weighed on the market: “We have producers who haven’t sold anything since September,” explained Lehoux.

The discovery of a case of chronic wasting disease in deer at a deer enclosure in Boileau in mid-September led to a real turning point in the health battle in the Argenteuil region throughout the autumn. Wanting at all costs to prevent the disease from spreading among the wild white-tailed deer, authorities slaughtered hundreds of wild animals around the farm, as well as signing the death warrant for Boileau’s 3,500 deer.

For Denis Ferrer, the nightmare began on a Tuesday in September, when a randomly tested carcass flashed a red light at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). A quarantine was immediately declared.

“After that, it fell,” he said. The decision to cull the entire herd was taken “very quickly” by governments, much to the company’s dismay. Too fast, in his opinion. Mr. Ferrer believed he could save part of the herd, which was evolving in isolated groups, but received a resignation from the federal government.

The company can still sell its meat, but now all carcasses are CFIA tested. A total of 11 sick animals have been detected and discarded since the onset of the crisis. According to the creator, all would be linked to the same enclosure, of the sixty that the company operated. He still doesn’t understand how the disease could have gotten into him.

While they normally slaughter 70 to 100 animals a week, Ferrer’s employees have had to quintuple their pace to slaughter 400 to 500 animals since early October, the director said. One last sprint before – for most of them – losing their job.

Significant financial losses

If the breeder claims to have frozen carcasses to avoid flooding the market, that slaughter rate still has a significant impact on the industry, said Gaétan Lehoux, president of the Cerfs rouges du Québec association.

“We’re not just worried, we feel it,” he said. “It hurts the wallet, it means more animals to feed. How do we manage to reconcile all this? »

“Everyone is feeling it on different levels, but for some it’s really not going well. »

– Gaétan Lehoux, president of the Cerfs rouges du Québec association

According to him, buyers “dramatically lowered their prices” because of the supply created by the mass slaughter.

Gaétan Lehoux, himself a breeder in Beauce, calls on governments to “fair treatment” with breeders affected by other epidemics and the establishment of a program of financial assistance.

painful customers

On the side of Cerf de Boileau customers, we are in mourning. Daniel Malo, owner of Boucherie Beau-Bien, is saddened by the death of “a very beautiful product”. “We are sad,” he said. It’s a big loss. »

Normand Laprise, the chef of the celebrated Toqué!, objected to the mass slaughter of deer in Boileau earlier this fall. The restaurant served as a business card for the creator.

As for Denis Ferrer himself, his grief has not yet begun: after weeks of slaughter at a maddening pace, it is in rest that he will measure the extent of the disaster, he believes.

He thought he would leave a vigorous herd as a legacy, he will have to settle for memories of a success that exploded in midair. “We still leave a mark, we show that we can do good things in Quebec. »

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What is “mad deer disease”?

Chronic wasting disease of deer (CWD), its real name, is an incurable disease that is transmitted by a prion (infectious agent that is not a bacteria or a virus, but a protein particle) and attacks the deer’s brain. CWD is related to mad cow disease and scrapie. In deer, it is transmissible from one animal to another through saliva or urine, in particular. The same experts have never found cases where the disease has been transmitted to humans. As a precaution, authorities still recommend not eating infected meat.


Photo David Boily, La Presse

Denis Ferrer, Boileau’s deer director, puts it bluntly: now that the farm’s 3,500 deer are dead, “it’s over.”

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