I ran into an interesting ethical dilemma yesterday while doing research for my agritourism guidebook.

I had gone to visit an agritourism operation that is unique in the Ottawa region, maybe even in the world. It was an informative and enjoyable experience, one that I’m sure many tourists would enjoy.

But here’s the catch: while the owner appeared to be taking proper care of the animals that were the star attraction, he was abusing some other animals in his care. Most disturbingly, he was raising puppies in an absolutely filthy shed that had obviously not been cleaned in many days (I saw at least 11 large feces from the one mother dog, who was locked in the shed with her puppies). The smell of ammonia was overpowering and made my eyes water. The poor dog was staring out of the one window, begging for attention and to be let out. So sad.

Surprisingly, the animals that were the main attraction were well looked after. The cages were clean and spacious, and the animals looked quite content. But they are a type of animal that wouldn’t do well in the poor conditions of the dogs and other animals, so I guess the owner has no choice but to put in more effort.

I’m very aware that “city folk” like me sometimes don’t understand the realities of farming. That’s why I try to keep an open mind when it comes to livestock. However, I think there are basic animal husbandry standards, and forcing an animal to live in its own waste is inexcusable. If you’re going to treat your dogs as livestock, how hard is it to scoop up the waste once or twice a day?

Okay, so here’s my ethical dilemma: Do I exclude this agritourism business from my book (and blog) because of the owner’s behaviour which is unrelated to the main agritourism business? I think the answer is yes, for the following reasons:

  • He’s inviting people onto his property, so any animals that are there should be considered as part of the overall experience
  • By recommending his agritourism business, I would be helping to bring revenue (and potential puppy customers) to a person who does not deserve it
  • It’s ultimately my book and blog, so I can decide who is in it!

So here’s my guarantee to those who read this blog and my book:

My goal is to promote agritourism businesses in the Ottawa region. I made a decision early in this project to focus on the positive – those businesses and experiences that are fun, educational, and worth visiting, even if it takes you an hour to drive there. By the same token, I do not post negative reviews. If I run into a business that bothers me, like the one above, I will simply leave it out. I am not influenced by any government funding or advertising revenue, so anything I promote is based on honest enthusiasm for agritourism businesses that I enjoyed visiting.