Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2008 - page 4

Warfare in the berry fields

Increasingly, farmland is used to produce berries that make for higher profits than other crops. The problem is that berries need protection from ravaging birds during the final stage of ripening. This protection is primarily achieved by using noise-emitting scare devices, like electronic gadgets frequently emitting loud cries of birds of prey, or propane cannons. Especially the latter are very loud and preferred by most farmers, because they are easy to use and cheaper than other means of protection. We last reported on that matter in our Spring 2006 NOISE-Letter, on page 3.


There are numerous cases where residents lived next to farmland without problems, until the crop choice changed to berries, cherries or grapes, and noisy protection was introduced. Last year in February, Society president Hans Schmid wrote the minister of agriculture of British Columbia, the Hon. Patrick Bell, to bring this matter to his attention and to help with finding a solution. By Oct. 2007 there was no reply from the minister and the same letter was e-mailed again, with no reply to date. A copy of that letter follows below:


Dear Mr. Bell,

The issue of loud, very frequent explosions from propane cannons to protect berry fields from birds was brought to our attention years ago. This matter, unfortunately, has been unsuccessfully pursued by one of our members during the nineties. With berry crops, especially fashionable blue‑berries, having become increasingly lucrative, ever more farmland is used for that purpose. Consequently, ever more people living, recreating or working within earshot of that noise have become and are becoming adversely affected by it.

Too often we hear the argument that the farms were there before the residents, for which the latter have no reason to complain. This may be justified where such noisy cannons were already in use prior to any residents moving there. However, residents alone cannot be burdened with the full responsibility. There are more and more residents afflicted now, who lived adjacent to farms for decades already without problems, until the crop choice became berries, vulnerable to pilfering birds. Only then the trouble started.

Noise is not a mere nuisance. It does not recognise property limits [boundaries], and trespasses on other people's properties. Noise has very serious health implications. It affects people as well as animals, documentation of which can be provided. Noise is, indeed, a much neglected health hazard that ought to receive due attention by our authorities. We understand the importance of farming; however, there needs to be a strict limit on the use of bird‑scare devices that generate detrimental noise. There are alternative means available to protect such crops (i.e. nets, infra‑red devices etc.) that make no noise. For instance, in Germany, noise‑emitting bird‑scare devices liable to disturb residents are restricted and may be used only where farmers demonstrate they are the only effective means, and provide residents with adequate protection from the noise.

If inflicting unhealthy noise by farmers on others happens to be justified by a law like the Farm Practices Protection Act, we would argue that this would contradict other equally or more important laws that protect human well-being and health. The World Health Organisation provides plenty of information on how badly noise affects our health. I would even suspect that human rights laws could be brought to bear here. Indeed, with this problem rapidly growing, there could well be legal action looming, all of which could be avoided if proper action were taken now to change this farming practice and protect or compensate adversely affected residents.

I would very much appreciate to hear from you how your ministry will address this serious problem, particularly when considering that all sound, just as all light, eventually converts into heat, adding yet another "straw to the overburdened camel's back", respectively global warming.

To contact the Hon. Patrick Bell:  e-mail <pat.bell.mla@leg.bc.ca>, phone 250 387 1023 or write by regular mail to Room 137, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, V8V 1X4.

On loud motorbikes

Unpublished letter to the Editor [The Vancouver Sun]:
What a laudable move by police to target noisemakers!! But WHY just have a "blitz" in the downtown core? These agitating noisemakers are ubiquitous, menacing people and animals elsewhere as well. Also, their noise is unhealthy and illegal at any time, not merely in summer when windows are open.


Fining irresponsible motorists is a positive first step, but what about the "facilitators"? Businesses that make, sell and install the noise equipment should be equally on the hook, and the Motor Vehicle Act be amended to outlaw boom‑cars. Now, that would be a terrific contribution to achieving a more "civil city".

— Hans Schmid, Right to Quiet Society

Entire contents © 2006 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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