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Dairy industry suffers black eye from shocking abuse

The BC SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against eight employees of Canada’s largest dairy farm in Chilliwack. - SPCA Photo
The BC SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against eight employees of Canada’s largest dairy farm in Chilliwack.
— image credit: SPCA Photo

Cruelty allegations at a Chilliwack dairy farm have led to a torrent of commentary on the subject of abusive treatment of animals from across the continent.

Dairy reps say they have been cooperating fully with the BC SPCA investigation.

"Within the B.C. dairy industry we have a high level of animal care, and as the representative organization of British Columbian dairy farmers, we wish to express our extreme sadness and concern around this incident," said Dave Taylor, chair of the B.C. Dairy Association.

The footage has given the industry a black eye, and officials are shaken.

"Organizationally we have a zero tolerance policy around these issues and we feel it vital to assert that this abuse is in no way common practice in our industry," said Taylor.

"We are in complete support of the BCSPCA and will continue to be closely involved in this investigation, assisting in any way necessary."

The group whose member took the footage at the farm at different intervals over a month with a hidden camera is called Mercy for Animals Canada.

The horrific images are nothing short of shocking, they say. The footage is from the Chilliwack Cattle Sales farm, owned by the Kooyman family. The dairy farm supplies milk to Saputo-owned Dairyland.

Mercy For Animals Canada is praising BC SPCA this week for "its swift and decisive action" in pursuing charges against eight dairy workers.

After reviewing the footage, professors of animal science Drs. Bernard Rollin and William Wailes said in a joint statement: “Never have we seen such outright sadistic pleasure taken by workers in animal suffering, including gratuitous shocking of the cows.”

Mercy For Animals Canada is now calling on Saputo to adopt meaningful animal welfare guidelines, including zero tolerance for kicking, punching, and beating cows; procedures to ensure the proper care and transportation of sick, injured, and downed animals; and a requirement that its suppliers install video monitoring systems that live stream to the Internet to help prevent malicious abuse.

“The cows on this dairy factory farm experience nothing but fear, violence, and deprivation at the hands of sadistic animal abusers,” said Twyla Francois, director of investigations for Mercy For Animals Canada. “This investigation proves that the dairy industry is incapable of self-regulation. The government must step in to create and enforce standards to protect farmed animals from needless cruelty.”

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling for random inspections and mandatory video surveillance of livestock.

VHS spokesperson Leanne McConnachie, who examined the dairy farm footage stated: "Individual acts of animal cruelty should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law but the industry must also be held to account for ensuring the humane treatment of animals."

Following the release of footage showing employees abusing cows, the Chilliwack Cattle Company is taking immediate action to ensure their animals remain safe.

“As a company we were not given a chance to view the footage until it aired on television tonight,” said Kooyman. “Now that it has aired we are taking immediate action to terminate all employees involved as well as take several steps to ensure that this type of abuse never happens again.”

Changes include longer periods of training for new employees, as well as all current employees will be receiving thorough animal welfare training. The company will also be installing closed circuit cameras to ensure round the clock security for the cows.

“We deeply apologize for what happened,” added Kooyman. “We cannot stress further how much the actions of these young men have shocked our family. This does not reflect at all on the care or respect our family has for animals and we will do everything necessary to make sure this never happens again.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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