Cruelty probe at Quebec farm prompts calls for ban on veal crates
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 21, 2014 3:56PM EDT
An animal rights organization is calling on the government to ban veal crates following an undercover investigation at a Quebec farm that revealed calves being kicked, punched and confined to tiny wooden crates for the entirety of their short lives.
Footage from the undercover investigation, which was shot by Mercy For Animals Canada and detailed in a CTV W5 report this weekend, has prompted the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to launch an investigation.
The hidden camera footage was shot over an eight-week period earlier this year at a Delimax Veal-affiliated factory farm in Pont-Rouge, Que. Delimax is one of the largest veal producers in North America.
"Their short lives are filled with fear, violence and prolonged suffering," Mercy For Animals Canada's Krista Osborne said during a news conference on Monday.
The footage shows baby calves, just weeks old, being kicked, punched, slapped and yelled at by barn employees. They are housed in crates so narrow they can’t turn around or lie down comfortably. Many are tethered by chains around their necks.
The hidden camera footage was shown to Fabien Fontaine, a member of the Quebec Veal Association and the owner of Delimax Veal.
Delimax delivers the calves to the Pont Rouge barn and picks them up to bring them to the slaughter house. Delimax drivers also deliver the milk by-products to the barn to feed the calves.
Fontaine pointed out that Delimax does not own the Pont Rouge operation.
He also noted that the future for milk-fed veal calves in Quebec will soon be much more humane.
Fontaine took W5 on a tour of a Delimax veal operation near Drummonville. There, calves are raised in group pens allowing them to mingle with each other and giving them a little more room to move around.
He said that this new system will be the norm for the Quebec veal industry by 2018.
There are 120 veal operations in Quebec that use wooden crates, about 75 per cent of all the barns in the province.
Mercy For Animals Canada is calling on law officials to file animal cruelty charges against the Pont Rouge farm managers and employees.
Osborne said beating and neglecting animals is in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.
"Unfortunately most of the veal sold in Canada comes from factory farms that condemn calves to filthy wooden crates like these," Osborne said. "These playful and social animals spend nearly their entire lives in the dark. They never see the sun, they never breathe fresh air, they never feel the grass beneath their feet."
Veal crates are banned in Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and in eight U.S. states. The organization is calling on the Canadian government to also ban the practice.
"In a civilized society, it is our moral obligation to protect all animals, including veal calves, from needless suffering and violence," Osborne said.
She added that the animal cruelty laws in Canada are "few and far between."
"The only times these matters are investigated is when a complaint is filed, which again is very rare," she said.
Mercy For Animals Canada is also calling on the Retail Council of Canada to push the government for tougher legislation regarding factory farms.
"Every time (our investigators) visit a factory farm, they witness egregious cruelty," Osborne said. "This leads us to believe that this type of cruelty runs rampant throughout the entire factory farming industry."
Following a Mercy For Animals Canada investigation at a Manitoba pig factory farm last year, the Retail Council of Canada committed to ending the extreme confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates.
The organization is now calling on that group, which represents all major grocery chains, to prohibit veal crates in its member grocers' supply chains – a policy that's already supported by Costco, Metro, Sobeys and Loblaws.