The co-owner of Canada’s largest dairy has confirmed that eight employees have been suspended, after animal rights campaigners released a video showing cows being viciously beaten and kicked repeatedly in the head at the farm in British Columbia.
Footage given to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) by the Mercy for Animals Canada group appears to show employees from Chilliwack Cattle Sales punching, kicking, and hitting cows with chains, canes and rakes.
The puss and blood-filled wounds the cows appeared to have sustained from their maltreatment are also depicted.
BC SPCA officers, accompanied by respected cattle expert Dr James Reynolds, inspected the property in early June as part of an ongoing investigation into how animals are kept at the company.
“The images in the undercover video are extremely disturbing and highlight an urgent need for better standards to protect farm animals in B.C. [British Columbia] from abuse and neglect,” said Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer.
Moriarty explained that while a Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle was published in 2009, she said its requirements have not been verified on farms through third-party inspections or adopted into British Colombian law.
“It is important that producers have clear expectations around standards of care for farm animals and that there is a system in place to monitor and enforce these standards,” she said.
Moriarty confirmed that the company is co-operating with the investigation, but added that the BC SPCA believes criminal charges relating to animal cruelty should be put against the eight employees.
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Jeff Kooyman, who co-owns the farm, told CBC News that his family was devastated by the allegations and did not know animals were being poorly treated during night shifts.
“The guys were going crazy. I couldn’t imagine how people could do that to animals,” said Kooyman, adding the eight employees were fired in light of the footage.
“Obviously we failed. Our employees have failed and we are going to be putting in a new training program to ensure that this never happens again.”
“This is a family farm and this is not what we're all about.
“Maybe I failed to instill the passion and love that we have into our employees," he said.
He added to the broadcaster that some employees had been with the company for around two years, others were fairly new.
Dave Taylor, chairman of the British Columbia Dairy Association, said the association is “deeply concerned and saddened” by the alleged incidents at the Chilliwack farm.
“We have been working in close co-operation with the BC SPCA as this investigation has developed and outright condemn any mistreatment of animals in our industry. The BC SPCA has done an excellent job in this investigation thus far and we intend to fully assist in any way necessary," he said.