Workers fired after abuse caught on tape at B.C. dairy farm
Christina Commisso and Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, June 10, 2014 8:09AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 11, 2014 11:13AM EDT
The company that runs a British Columbia dairy farm where workers were secretly recorded punching and kicking cows says it has fired eight employees.
Chilliwack Cattle Company announced Tuesday that it is "taking immediate action to terminate all employees involved as well as take several steps to ensure that this type of abuse never happens again.”
The farm’s co-owner, Jeff Kooyman, told CTV News that eight employees were fired on Monday without severance pay.
He said one of the fired employees was a supervisor.
Animal rights group Mercy for Animals went undercover at the farm in May, secretly recording incidents of alleged animal abuse, including the use of chains, canes, rakes and other objects to hit and beat cows.
The group’s investigator “repeatedly brought his concerns to company owners who failed to take any corrective action,” Mercy for Animals’ director of legal advocacy Anna Pippus told a news conference Tuesday.
Kooyman said the company was unaware of the abuse until Monday.
Asked by a reporter about Kooyman’s claim, Pippus replied: “Our investigator told the owner that everyone was beating the animals hard and the owner failed to do anything. On our investigator’s next shift, absolutely nothing had changed.”
Last week, Mercy for Animals brought the footage to the BC SPCA, which recommended Criminal Code animal cruelty charges against eight workers at the Chilliwack farm.
Pippus said she expects Crown counsel to “approve” the charges.
In a statement, Chilliwack Cattle said it will be working with the BC SPCA to implement longer training periods for new employees, as well as to provide animal welfare training for all of its current workers.
Closed-circuit security cameras will also be installed at the facility.
“We deeply apologize for what happened,” Kooyman said, adding that his family was “shocked” by the footage.
“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.”
But one of the workers caught on tape told CTV News that management was allegedly aware of what was happening.
“I wouldn't say they should be completely shocked. They knew about 80 percent of what was going on,” he said.
And that doesn’t surprise Pippus.
“The company allowed criminal cruelty to animals to flourish on their watch.”
The head of the Dairy Farmers of Canada said he was disgusted by the actions caught on tape, while the B.C. Dairy association said the abuse is a black mark on the industry.
Saputo supports SPCA investigation
Pippus called on Dairyland, the B.C. company owned by Saputo that purchases milk from Chilliwack Cattle Company, to take “immediate actions” to help prevent further abuse at its suppliers’ facilities, including implementing a “zero tolerance policy for abuse and neglect of any kind, including punching, kicking and neglecting cows.”
Saputo, which is Canada's largest dairy producer, said it was "outraged" by the alleged animal abuse and fully supports the SPCA investigation.
"We do not condone any form of animal cruelty and we expect milk producers to adopt proper animal care methods at all times,” the company said in a statement.
The statement went on to say that Saputo doesn't have the ability to select the farms from which milk is sourced, as dairy processors, under provincial legislation, are required to purchase their milk through the BC Milk Marketing Board.
“Dairy processors depend on milk producers and milk marketing boards to provide high quality milk and this begins with high standards in animal care,” the statement went on. “Healthy, well cared for herds are essential to the dairy industry as a whole.”
Pippus called on the company to establish procedures for caring for sick and injured animals, and to require that all suppliers install video cameras that livestream their operations.
Pippus said similar measures are sometimes used in the United States and Europe.
Government must also step in and establish animal welfare laws that extend to farm animals, “to protect cows and all farm animals from needless cruelty and violence,” Pippus said.
She said Mercy for Animals has completed six undercover investigations in the two years it has been operating in Canada; each time the group has uncovered animal abuse that has “shocked and horrified Canadians.”
“It’s not simply a fluke that every time we go undercover at a randomly selected facility we’re documenting footage like this.”
With files from the Canadian Press