Opinion: A shared disgust

Animal rights activists are not the only ones outraged by graphic video from a Chilliwack dairy farm. Dairy farmers are too.

Disturbing.

Horrific.

Sickening.

Those are only a few of the adjectives that can describe images in a video that has sparked animal abuse investigations at a Chilliwack dairy farm.

And the words weren’t coming only from animal rights advocates. They were shared by farmers, and dairy industry officials.

Release of the video created an immediate storm. Social media sites lit up as the graphic material began to circulate.

Among the first to react was the Kooyman family, owners of Chilliwack Cattle Sales – the largest dairy farm in Canada and the site of where the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

“That’s not who we are. We are devastated and deeply saddened to think some of our animals might have been harmed in this way,” said Jeff Kooyman, one of the farm owners.

But those early assurances got little sympathy. If eight employees are guilty of abuse, website commentators argued, the farm owners should be held accountable, and the entire dairy industry should be under review.

Indeed, the farm has to take a close look at its command and control structure – something the owners have already agreed will take place. They’ve also said they plan to install cameras to monitor the barns.

However, the simple fact is that the abuse seen in that video is not the norm. It can’t be.

A dairy farmer’s livelihood depends on the welfare of his or her animals. If they are distressed, ill or injured they won’t produce the quality or quantity of milk necessary.

Dairy farmers are also human. The vast majority have empathy for the animals in their care, and treat them with kindness and respect.

Obviously, there are some in our world who don’t share that empathy.

And that is perhaps the most shocking thing about this incident: That there are some among us who can inflict such pain with so little care.

To them, we are right in expressing our collective horror for their actions, and demand they be held accountable for them.

But we also must understand, dairy farmers share that horror.

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