B.C. poultry farm knew about abuse, fired supervisor says
Warning: This story contains details some may find disturbing
A poultry farm supervisor fired after undercover videos revealed horrific incidents of chickens being abused says he reported similar incidents in the past to his superiors.
Speaking under anonymity to CTV News, the supervisor alleged that management was aware of the way the chickens were treated.
“Some of the stuff, yes. Because I reported it,” the supervisor told CTV News.
The supervisor reached out to CTV News after he and five other employees were fired by Elite Farm Services Ltd. on Tuesday after the brutal footage surfaced.
Video shot by a whistleblower shows a worker pulling a live chicken whose leg was stuck under a crate until the bird’s leg ripped off. Other footage shows workers slamming chickens against crates, and mimicking sex acts with the birds by thrusting into them.
Elite Farm Services Ltd., based in Chilliwack, B.C., said it will be conducting an internal audit to review all practices, guidelines and training.
“We are sickened with the footage and want to ensure all our suppliers and producers that this is not reflective of who we are, our fundamental beliefs or behavior we accept from our employees,” Elite president Dwayne Dueck said in a statement Tuesday.
Elite, a licensed farm labour contractor hired by Sofina Foods Inc., sent its chicken-catching crew to various broiler chicken farms across the province to load chickens into crates and onto transport trucks. The chickens were then transported to a Lilydale slaughter plant in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
The video was shot by a whistleblower who spent one month working on the farm. He was hired to help load chickens destined for processing plants. He says he received no training for the job.
In an interview with CTV News, the whistleblower -- whom CTV News has agreed not to identify -- said the violence he saw first-hand “was the most horrific type of abuse that I’ve ever witnessed in my life.”
“Birds had their legs ripped off and their bodies torn apart,” he said.
The whistleblower said he repeatedly reported the abuse to his supervisor. One of their conversations was recorded.
“I see a lot of people throw them in … and like, kick them,” the whistleblower says in the video.
The supervisor responds: “They shouldn’t be kicking them.”
Welfare group calls for prosecution
Mercy For Animals, an animal rights group that produced the undercover video, has filed a formal complaint with the RCMP, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the BC SPCA.
“Firing five workers is too little, too late,” said Krista Hiddema, managing director for Mercy For Animals, at a press conference on Tuesday.
Hiddema called on law enforcement officials to press charges against the workers, managers and companies involved in the video, which she said reveals “the most sickening and sadistic abuse” ever obtained by the group.
“Everyone who sees this footage can agree that the level of animal abuse uncovered by this whistleblower simply cannot continue,” Hiddema said.
The B.C. SPCA is recommending animal abuse charges against all individuals involved.
“There’s a precedent that companies should and can be held responsible for the actions of their employees,” said Marcie Moriarty, the chief prevention and enforcement officer with the B.C. SPCA.
Mercy For Animals says the latest video follows another one showing turkeys at a Lilydale slaughterhouse violently slammed into metal shackles and injured while still alive.
In that instance, a B.C. SPCA investigation led to charges of animal cruelty against the individuals and company involved, as well as widespread industry changes.
If convicted, individuals could face a fine up to $75,000, a maximum five-year prison sentence and a possible ban for life from owning or being around animals.
Elite’s president vowed to cooperate with any corrective measures that may follow.
“Elite Services is committed to becoming an industry leader in animal welfare and safety to prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening again,” Dueck said.
Expert: Poultry industry must be ‘more visible’
A leading poultry welfare expert says the nature of the industry makes it easy for abuse to unfold behind closed doors.
“Part of the problem is that chicken catching takes place, usually, in enclosed sheds, so there’s no one to see what actually happens,” said Ian Duncan, a professor at Guelph University’s department of animal biosciences. “I think we’ve got to make the whole process more visible.”
Mercy For Animals is urging Canadian consumers to put pressure on Loblaw president Galen Weston to adopt “meaningful animal welfare policies” to ensure that animals sold in stores are not tortured. Lilydale chicken products are sold in Loblaws stores across Canada.
“Ask him to take stand against this animal abuse,” Hiddema said.
In a statement on Monday, a Loblaw spokesperson said the company is not directly involved in raising or processing animals. However, Loblaw expects its suppliers to “ensure animals are treated in accordance with government and industry-accepted guidelines for humane treatment.”
“We have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of animals and will monitor the outcomes of this investigation,” the Loblaw spokesperson wrote.
With a report from CTV’s B.C. Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy