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‘Keep out of my fridge’

An Ottawa man is fighting for the right to slaughter and process meat for his friends


 
'Keep out of my fridge'

David Gonczol/Ottawa Citizen

Four squad cars squealed into Mark Tijssen’s yard with their lights blazing, just after dark on a cold November night last year. Tijssen, who was having dinner with his nine-year-old son at the time, politely showed the officers around his Ottawa property before being charged with several crimes under the Ontario Food Quality and Safety Act (OFQSA), including killing uninspected animals and distributing meat without a licence. It was all because he had slaughtered a pig and given a friend some of the meat. “I didn’t set out to be an activist or a revolutionary—I grew up on a farm,” says Tijssen, 48, a Canadian Forces major. “There was no need for this.”

Tijssen is now fighting the Ontario government for the right to slaughter and process meat for his friends and neighbours (the law allows him to process it for personal use), a practice he claims was legal before the OFQSA was quietly brought into force in 2005. His trial begins Feb. 14, and could result in $100,000 in penalties. He had the chance to settle the case for a $1,000 fine, but refused.

Tijssen, who has a degree in biomedical toxicology and plans to represent himself, says his Charter rights to equality, security of the person, and protection from illegal search and seizure are being violated, and that the government is unfairly targeting hobbyists and small-scale farmers with regulations meant for industrial operations. “Government agencies really enjoy the Bush doctrine of shock and awe,” says Michael Schmidt, a farmer and supporter of Tijssen’s, who beat 19 charges of distributing raw milk last January. “It’s a disaster. You’re killing the small butcher shop. You’re killing this culture.”

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs declined to comment, but Kevin Allen, a food microbiologist with UBC, says the government’s regulations are required to guarantee food safety. “When you look at commercial production you have a lot of critical control points that are undergoing constant verification,” he says. “There’s no verification system for individuals. There’s nothing to ensure there aren’t environmental pathogens getting into the meat.”

Tijssen says the industrial process mixes meat from thousands of animals, and that one sick cow or pig is enough to contaminate massive amounts of meat, leading to disasters like the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, which resulted in 22 deaths. He says his home operation is far more sterile then any commercial plant, and questions why farmers are being hounded while hunters can give away their meat without any regulation, despite the fact that wasting disease, the deer-borne equivalent of mad cow, is becoming increasingly common in Canada. “The ministers set out regulations that let some overzealous game wardens go out and start thumping people,” he says. “Let us look after ourselves. Keep out of my fridge.”


 

‘Keep out of my fridge’

  1. CBC interviewed this fellow's neighbour, who phoned in a complaint. According to him, the hero of this David and Goliath fairy tale lives not on a "farm" but about 2.5 acres. The neighbour noticed discarded the discarded remains of a butchered bovine, NOT on the hero's own property but on a third party's property.

    After a candid conversation, and an agreement by Mr Tijssen that he would not dispose of remains this way, the neighbour found more and reported him. Mr. Tijessen is cannily trying to frame the story as he sees it in his own mind. But no one has the "right" to endanger the health of others. No one has the "right" to deprive others of the enjoyment of their own property. No one has the "right" to disobey the law and expect anything other than that the law will be used against them when the offend it. If the law is an ass, kick it; but kick it through the democratic and legal process.

  2. My concern would be the humane treatment of the animals, and this should be discussed in the article. Our factory farms, and huge slaughterhouses are not humane, under examination right now. It appears that the methods of a hunter, or halal slaughter are more humane than a machine that mechanically stuns the animal, then rips its skin off before it is dead.

    First question – how is he killing the animal? Does he know how to do it without terrorizing the animal, and as painlessly as possible? Then move on to the other issues. Disposing of remains is a big one.

  3. Whatever he did with the remains- only an allegation t this point- is governed by other laws. Meat slaughtered at home is safer than that from mass production facilities. The bureaucrats should read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To prosecute this man on trumped up charges is harassment.

    • "Meat slaughtered at home is safer than that from mass production facilities"
      – Interesting broad brush assertion, based on…?

      "Bureaucrats should read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms"
      – No, they should read and apply the laws passed by our democratically elected legislatures. Our courts apply the Charter.

      "Trumped up charges"
      – Interesting: the improperly disposed remains are an allegation and are governed by other laws, but he's being harassed for being charged with actual laws that actually exist. He doesn't deny doing what he did; he denies that the laws are valid. So how, exactly, are the charges "trumped up"?

  4. We face in B.C. the same collusion between big food business and the safety fanatics in the provincial government. They've effectively destroyed "farmgate" sales. They claim this draconian legislation is to protect us from ourselves, while "they" have presided over and been responsible for all the big poisonings this last decade across the country. I'll trust the small farmer down the road that I know, thank you very much. Yes, basic regs are good for the small local producers, both in processing and disposal, but the degree government takes it to is ludicrous (and good only for big business).

    • Keith,

      My sister sells meat at the farm gate. She insists on using facilities that are regularly inspected and certified to process her meat so that she avoids nuisance lawsuits and instils confidence in her customers. Face it, a vast majority of customers are urban, with zero exposure to farm life.

      I've had – and prepared – my own game meat wen I was young. I won't repeat the experience. I take my game to a local butcher, and won't take gifts from friends of their home produced game. A friend became extremely ill of e-coli and the source was home prepared venison.

      • Fine, don't buy meat slaughtered privately. But why disallow others from buying it? As long as the customer knows that it's not from a federally inspected slaughter house, what's the big deal & why do you care?

  5. I HAVE DRANK RAW MILK AND ATE HOME PROCESSED MEAT FOR 60 YEARS AND ALL OF MY FAMILY HAS DONE THE SAME AND ALL OF OUR FRIENDS PROCESS THEIR OWN MEAT OCCASIONALLY. I HAVE NEVER GOT SICK AND I HONESTLY DO NOT KNOW OF ANYONE THAT HAS EITHER. I WORKED ON A DAIRY AND WE DIPPED MILK DIRECTLY OUT OF THE TANK AND DRANK IT.NEVER ANY ILLNESS. THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO TOTALLY CONTROL US. WHEN YOU HAVE CONTROL OF THE FOOD YOU HAVE TOTAL CONTROL. YOU BETTER WAKE UP TO THIS SCHEME BEFORE IT IS TO LATE.

  6. I am the brother of Mark Tijssen. At the request of Mr. Cormier (the same person who led the MNR to believe that my brother was running an unlicensed abattoir) my brother and I dispatched a deer with a broken leg(compound fracture, bone protruding) that had collapsed (it was skin and bones as well) on Mr. Cormier's homemade skating rink. It was February 2008 and the ground was frozen, leaving us no choice but to bury the deer on Mark's property in the shavings from his chickens behind his shed. Unfortunately, in spite of our best effort, coyotes dug part of the deer up again and dragged it away into the bush behind the property. Perhaps these are the bones that Mr. Cormier saw while he was trespassing on his neighbours property? Perhaps MNR should do their job and control the coyote population that not only digs into his shavings but have killed all of my brothers pet geese. Just so everyone knows, my brother's property is 3 acres and according to his deed, it is zoned agricultural. Let no good deed remain unpunished!

  7. I agree with your point but for the record its hole, not whole. Also its the internet so try not to let people like this get to you because thats what they want. Just try to relax dude, its really not that big of a deal.

  8. Mr Cormier sounds like a troublemaker! He doesn't even know the difference between a porcine (pig) and bovine!(cow) so how can his complaint be taken seriously? I would eat Mr Tijssen's home butchered meat any time! Back off government!

  9. Maybe the farmer with the Mute Swan in Ontario that would not fly away – who faced numerous court appearences under the migratory bird act – – -all the way to the Ontario Superior Court Tribunal before the appeal was dismissed.  Perhaps he should have had Mark butcher the swan and they both could have enjoy the bird for Christmas dinner….. would that have lessened or exagerated the non-sensical issues at play in todays court system ?  

    Too many beauracrats with not enough real work to do…So FIRE THEM – – for  Less Government & More Liberty for ALL !    

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