Wawken site no longer being considered for swine cull burial pit

Ryan Kiedrowski Local Journalism Initiative Reporter The World-Spectator

Ryan Kiedrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The World-Spectator

A site in the RM of Wawken is no longer being considered for a potential emergency swine cull burial site.

Saskatchewan Agriculture was looking for potential sites around the province for burials in case of a future cull of swine.

Cannington MLA Daryl Harrison confirmed to the World-Spectator that the potential site in the RM of Wawken will no longer be considered. 

He explained that after receiving feedback with concerns on the potential site being not suitable, more investigation took place.  

“I forwarded it on to the Ministry, and they did some testing there of the site and they have determined that it is not suitable for a cull site,” he said. “All testing and work has been cancelled for that particular location.”

“There’s pretty strong requirements for a burial site, and when they do their testing and evaluation, they determined that it wasn’t acceptable,” he said. 

“Since BSE, we have to be proactive and prepared for another outbreak. The Province continues to work with landowners, leasees, RMs, and our livestock groups to ensure that we have an adequate plan in place.”

The provincial government has been testing several locations across Saskatchewan as possible sites for mass burial locations.

RM of Wawken Administrator Katelyn Ethier explained that Council met with the Ministry of Agriculture and continued to stay in contact with them throughout the testing process. 

Back in early August, 2023, the RM first found out that the provincial government was looking at potential sites around the province. Since that time, both entities have been in conversation with Wawken even hosting a pair of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture during the Oct. 12, 2023 regular public meeting of RM Council.

“They\ told us that it’s a proposed site in case of emergency, there is no plan to use it—to dig a pit or use this—unless there is some sort of emergency,” Ethier said. “They said that it will only be used for pigs or hogs. They would not be accepting hogs out of province, there would be no diseased hogs going into the pits.”

The province is still looking at sites around the province for burials. In the extreme case where a burial pit needs to be used, the process would involve digging a trench, placing the deceased animals inside then immediately covered.

The area that was being considered in the RM of Wawken is leased Crown land actively being farmed. 

“They’re trying to find the best possible location for everything. I’ve been told that they were looking for somewhere in the Southwest as well,” she said. 

The province says the burial sites would be used in a case where animals would not be able to be marketed.

“Burial sites are only for consideration in the unfortunate and extreme event of extended market closures and a surplus of animals unable to be marketed,” said Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Jamie Shanks. 

“This would increase the risk of animal health and welfare concerns, which may result in what is sometimes referred to as a welfare cull—i.e., euthanizing animals before their welfare becomes an issue. We’re currently exploring several potential sites across Saskatchewan to determine their suitability for this purpose.”

“The engineering investigation was done at the Wawota location to ensure that ground and surface water at the site are protected and it was not deemed suitable,” he said. 

“It’s our hope that such sites are never needed, but we want to—and must—proactively prepare so we’re better able to respond quickly in a crisis and support our livestock sector,” Shanks continued. 

“As always, the province is working with landowners, lessees, rural municipalities, animal disease specialists, livestock groups and other provincial and federal agencies on this kind of emergency planning.”