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Milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales will likely be destroyed

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

Outrage is coming from all over the globe.

The Kooyman family of Chilliwack, still reeling after video evidence surfaced last week of cow abuse at the hands of eight dairy workers, is facing more problems.

Milk pick-up from the farm was suspended Friday by the BC Milk Marketing Board, and reinstated the next day when it received assurances from independent veterinarians about safeguards being implemented to ensure animal welfare best practices.

But it wasn't enough.

Montreal-based dairy giant Saputo announced Monday it would no longer accept milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales, pending independent audits – this, after more than 90,000 people signed a change.org petition calling for a boycott.

The marketing board put out a release Tuesday saying it will honour the processor's request that milk not be accepted from Chilliwack Cattle Sales, which means thousands of litres of milk per day will likely have to be dumped.

The refusal by the dairy giant to take receipt of milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales is a big concern for the board.

The release states the board was satisfied by assurances from officials that animal welfare issues are being addressed at the farm, and the Notice to Industry of June 14 also provided additional actions steps it will require over time, such as independent audits and monitoring.

"However, the Board recognizes the need to respond to processors’ milk orders, and as such the Board will adjust delivery decisions as necessary given current circumstances.

"The Board has received requests from processors that milk orders do not include milk deliveries from Chilliwack Cattle Sales until the additional independent audits have been completed.

"The Board will act in accordance with processor requests and due to lack of market, the milk will be destroyed," read the release.

The latest actions follow the release of an undercover video June 8, which showed graphic evidence of animal abuse at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada's largest dairy farm on Prairie Central Road. BC SPCA said it was investigating if cruelty charges would be laid.

Saputo is calling for "strict reform" from dairy producers, with enforceable legal measures to prevent future animal abuse, and severe penalties for abusers.

The Kooyman family put out a simple message this week in reaction to the Saputo decision, restating its "commitment to transparency," and doing what it takes to ensure the wellbeing of their animals, from cameras to improved employee training.

Family spokesperson Jeff Kooyman has tried to get in front of the issue from day one. He told the Progress initially he was horrified by the video footage shot by Mercy for Animals Canada.

“We have been and will continue to remain transparent on this issue,” says Kooyman. “We want to remain an open book to the public and our industry and will do whatever it takes to restore their faith.”

They are opening their doors to Saputo, the largest dairy processor in Canada.

“We would like to extend an open invitation to Saputo to come and view the farm and level of animal care for themselves,” he said.

“This is a family farm started in the 1950s and we care deeply for our animals. We would love the opportunity to show this to Saputo and what measures have been put in place to ensure animal welfare.”

The Kooymans have been working closely with the BC SPCA and regulatory authorities, taking steps to ensure animal safety by installing cameras throughout the farm as well as revising hiring policies and seeking new training programs for new and current staff.

Training will align with the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, published in 2009.

Saputo officials support the recommendation by the BC SPCA that the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, published in 2009, be adopted into provincial law.

"To set the record straight, Saputo does not own or operate any dairy farms in British Columbia, or anywhere else in Canada. Like all dairy processors in Canada, Saputo is required by law to purchase milk from the provincial milk marketing boards. While we do not own the farms, we care deeply about the way the milk we sell is produced.

"We will not accept milk from the BC Milk Marketing Board supplied by this farm until we are fully satisfied that strict animal welfare practices are in place. We always strive to do the right thing and our stewardship of the public’s trust in our industry is something we take very seriously.

"The abuse brought to light in this case should be viewed as a catalyst for change to ensure the proper treatment of dairy cattle through appropriate, enforceable and legal measures including severe penalties for offenders."

The BC Milk Marketing board decision for CCS on Friday to suspend, and then reinstate milk pick up on Saturday, also called for:

• implementation of "independent inspection/monitoring" for compliance with SPCA dairy animal welfare requirements, plus expert farm audits and training,

• requirement for mandatory compliance with the Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, farm monitoring surveillance,

• board oversight of an expert veterinarian team to provide continued direction and supervision to ensure proper dairy animal welfare practices are adhered to and valued at Chilliwack Cattle.

"Although animal welfare does not come under the Milk Marketing Board’s authority as a regulator, we need to be assured that dairy cows are well taken care of. The Board has taken the following actions for production, pick-up, and delivery of milk in our role as a regulator."

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