It was a Meatless Monday last Friday for seagulls who had a hankering for tofu.
The BC Wildlife Rescue Association had to rush to a tofu plant in Vancouver Friday after hearing that 62 seagulls were trapped in a vat containing tofu waste.
The vat, which was situated at the back of a tofu processing plant in East Vancouver, was covered with a metal grid which was large enough to let the birds fly in, but too small to allow them to escape. The grid was fixed to the vat last week to stop people stealing the waste to use as fertilizer.
The Wildlife Rescue Helpline first heard about the emergency after learning about 12 trapped birds in an alleyway. A trained Rescue Volunteer went out to the site and found the distressed birds trying to escape as the tofu waste continued to pour into the vat.
Emergency response teach dispatched
The wildlife rehabilitation organization based out at Burnaby Lake dispatched an emergency response team to the scene while staff negotiated with the management at Superior Tofu to remove the metal grid.
The Wildlife Rescue team covered the container with sheets and towels to calm the birds and the grid was unlocked by mid-afternoon.
With the container accessible but secure, an experienced rescue volunteer climbed into the container and removed the birds one-by-one. The gulls were placed in pet carriers and transported to the WRA Wildlife Hospital in a fleet of cars, trucks and vans.
Birds all survived their tofu quicksand
All of the birds survived the ordeal and a total of 62 gulls remain in care at Wildlife Rescue.
Superior Tofu Ltd. added later some information about the waste. The stuff in the vats is okara, a fibrous pulp left over from tofu manufacturing.
It is akin to the pulp that would be left over after pressing the juice from grapes to make wine. It is not a product we sell or is in any way for human consumption.
Every week, a farmer takes the okara to feed his livestock and before last week, the vat was completely uncovered.
There would always be a few birds who came down to pick on the okara and always some humans who would come take some okara to fertilize their gardens. The cage cover was our effort to keep both animals and humans out for sanitation and safety.
Because tofu, like dairy products, spoils easily, the company says it takes very seriously the issue of food safety, it said in a posting on Facebook.
In fact we have gone to great effort and cost to be the first and only tofu manufacturer in Canada to be GFSI certified (an SQF standard that is a lot more stringent than standard city health inspections), and recommend that consumers insist on using products with this certification. We are currently looking at either covering the vats with chicken wire or possibly covering them completely and locking them down, but are still working with Wildlife Rescue to find a good solution.
Tofu company: Sorry Seagulls
The tofu company also had some words for the seagulls.
Lastly, to the seagulls, we’re sorry! And don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are a flying rat!