COLUMN: Into the breach against blueberry cannons

Like all wars, this one must come to an end, some day, when reason and regard for human well-being overcome politics and profit.

Another summer … another artillery war in the blueberry fields.

Like all wars, this one must come to an end. And it will, some day, when reason and regard for human well-being eventually overcome politics and profit.

I refer, of course, to the infernal propane cannon.

It is unfathomable how the absurd notion of creating a succession of deafening blasts all day long to scare off birds could become a standard farming practice – actually protected by law!

How is it possible that someone in authority and in full control of their faculties  did not consider this concept in its infancy, shake his or her head, and crisply administer the “Rejected” stamp?

No doubt the appalling proliferation of these dastardly devices was never envisioned back when they were first developed.

What began as a handful of farmers with a few acres of blueberries here and there has become an agricultural juggernaut – a crop worth $150 million in the Lower Mainland.

And money, of course, justifies many things – among them a ridiculous practice that even the growers and their guardian politicians admit is highly invasive and disruptive to others within earshot (a most appropriate term under the circumstances.)

Those who are subjected to this audible torture can take some  measure of encouragement – however slight – that some gains have been made over the years in terms of restricting the hours and frequency of the cannons’ barrages.

The mere fact that blueberry growers have an representative who does nothing else but respond to cannon complaints is an acknowledgement that they are engaging in a highly objectionable practice.

The old argument of “if you don’t like the noise, you shouldn’t have moved close to a blueberry farm” simply doesn’t reflect reality any longer.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of land that used to be planted in raspberries or corn or any number of other crops have been converted to the lucrative blueberry.

Thousands of formerly peaceful homes in the region are now under siege for three months of the year, or longer.

Many of those folks probably never even knew what a propane cannon was before one or more opened fire next door. It’s not quite like buying a home next to an airport.

Yet, even in that case, when flight paths are changed or flights are added, laying down new layers of noise over neighbourhoods, the outcry from those homeowners can be heard over the jets.

I wonder if the folks who so lightly dismiss the helpless victims of propane cannons would be so smug or stoic if they were subjected to the same or similar inescapable noise. Highly doubtful.

I had to shake my head at a recent web comment on Coun. John Smith’s intention to table a new bylaw that would toughen restrictions on propane cannons.

Some fellow suggested he ought to mind his own business.


I’d suggest this issue is very much the councillor’s business, particularly considering provincial agriculture ministers have long just bowed to old “right to farm” legislation, as though it was a papal decree. (Even if it was, the Pope has to change with the times, too…)

Smith wants to pare down the operating times of the cannons, and hike fines for non-compliance. More power to him, and any other politician with the backbone to tackle this unholy grail.

It’s not as though there aren’t viable alternatives – quite a few, actually.

There are many blueberry growers (bless their peaceful hearts) who do just fine using other options to deal with birds. Either that, or they’re willing to accept the fact that Mother Nature and farmers often have a less than ideal relationship, and conflicting imperatives just go with the turf (pun intended).

Good on Coun. Smith, and all others like him, I say. March into the breach, brave souls, and muzzle those cannons!

Andrew Holota is the editor of the Abbotsford News.

Just Posted

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat greets fans outside of the Abbotsford Centre prior to the Canucks exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators in 2019. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
More jobs posted for Abbotsford AHL team

Five new opportunities accepting applicants, Comets forward Lukas Jasek signs in Finland

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read