Dairy sets up cameras in wake of abuse

Chilliwack Cattle Sales apologetic | Mercy for Animals Canada wants video to air live on the internet

Video cameras were installed at Canada’s largest dairy last week after an undercover video revealed cows being beaten and abused by milking parlour workers.

Eight employees of Chilliwack Cattle Sales were fired days after Mercy for Animals Canada released video footage taken at the farm during the month of May.

Now the dairy operation has in-stalled cameras in each of its six or seven barns. Jeremy Whittingstall, a spokesperson for farm co-owner Jeff Kooyman, said the video may be streamed to the internet, but he did not have further details as of June 13.

Chilliwack Cattle Sales is Canada’s largest dairy, with 3,500 cows and 30 employees, in addition to seven Kooymans and various family members.

Video evidence of dairy cow abuse, which included beatings with chains and rakes, punching udders and mechanically hoisting animals by the neck, sent shock waves through the dairy industry.

Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith said he was “upset, disgusted and devastated” by the news, adding that treatment of the kind shown in the video was intolerable and an anomaly in the industry.

Speaking on behalf of Kooyman, Whittingstall said he and the rest of the family are devastated by the discovery of abuse in their operation.

“I really want to stress just how much the family is completely apologetic for what happened,” said Whittingstall.

“This is not indicative of the industry. This is a very bad thing that happened on our farm but it’s not something that speaks to the industry as a whole. We’re going to do everything we can to make it right.”

After release of the video, Mercy for Animals Canada organized a petition asking people to boycott Saputo, which receives milk produced at Chilliwack Cattle Sales. The petition also demanded that Saputo “adopt meaningful animal welfare policies for its dairy suppliers.”

The petition had collected more than 98,000 signatures by June 16.

Saputo announced June 16 that it has stopped taking milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales and is calling for consequences for those involved. It also called for legal measures to prevent future animal abuses.

The B.C. Milk Marketing Board announced plans June 13 to stop collecting milk at the dairy farm until welfare concerns were addressed, but milk was being accepted at the start of this week.

The board said in a news release that it continued to monitor the ongoing SPCA investigation at the farm and had consulted veterinarians about compliance with the code of practice for care and handling of dairy cattle.

Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the British Columbia SPCA, said an investigation remains open.

“Our first priority was to ensure that the direct intentional abuse was halted so that was the focus with respect to the eight on-farm individuals who had been identified,” she said June 12.

“The second priority is of course to deal with any urgent immediate animal welfare issues on farm. I can say orders were issued with respect to issues on site. The third is with re-spect to any charges.”

Though the SCPA has recommended charges against the employees, Moriarty said she didn’t yet know if any would be laid against the dairy farm owners.

Whittingstall said some of the eight fired employees are minors, which is complicating the laying of charges. He said the workers comprised one night shift at the dairy barn.

Krista Osborne, director of operations for Mercy for Animals Canada, said the person who took the video informed Kooyman that abuse was occurring.

“He was aware. Our investigator spoke to him and informed him of this behaviour.”

However, Whittingstall said Kooyman was not aware of the abuse. The supervisor of the shift in question was one of the people fired.

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