Chilliwack dairy owners plead guilty in animal abuse case

Owners of one of Canada’s largest dairies, Chilliwack Cattle Sales of Chilliwack, B.C., have pleaded guilty and been fined for abuse of dairy cows that was captured in an undercover video in 2014.

The firm pleaded guilty to three charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and on Dec. 16 was fined $75,000 for each charge, the maximum fine per charge in such cases.

Wesley Kooyman, a company director, also pleaded guilty to one count under the same act and was fined another $75,000. He was prohibited from owning dairy cattle for one year.

Twenty counts of animal abuse were originally laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales, which had about 3,500 cows at the time. The number of charges was later reduced, according to reports from the B.C. meat and poultry industry.

The charges stemmed from an undercover video shot by Mercy for Animals in April, May and June 2014, which showed dairy barn workers beating, kicking and punching dairy cows, as well as lifting one cow by a chain around its neck.

The video showed employees taking apparent glee in their abuse of the animals.

Charges were subsequently laid against the company, owned by five members of the Kooyman family, and against seven employees.

The case came to court Dec. 16 in B.C., at which time the guilty pleas were made and fines imposed.

Chilliwack Cattle Sales issued a formal statement about the court appearance, in which it said the events “were a wake-up call for our company.

“We acknowledge that at the time our training and supervision was not adequate to prevent the inexcusable actions,” the statement said.

The company said it had since installed cameras in its barns so activity could be monitored at all times, and had revised its protocols and training programs. A full-time human resources person was hired to ensure a “consistent and methodical approach to hiring, training, supervising and evaluating staff.”

The statement further said: “We now have every staff and family member, who works with animals, undertake a specialized training module on dairy cattle handling. In addition, we have set a goal to have a family member or senior manager monitor every shift to ensure employees are acting in accordance with industry codes of practice.”

The case was the first time in B.C. that owners had been charged in such a case. The SPCA investigated after the video was shot, and that led to charges being laid.

Court cases for the seven employees who were charged are pending.

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