Charges laid in B.C. dairy barn abuse case

Twenty counts of animal cruelty have been laid under British Columbia law in connection with an undercover video released in June 2014 that showed dairy workers punching, kicking and beating dairy cows.

The video, taken at Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd., which is the largest dairy operation in Canada with 3,500 cows, shocked the public and caused ripples throughout the dairy industry.

Seven former employees have been charged under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and several face more than one charge for their role in mechanically lifting one cow using a chain around its neck.

As well, the owners of Chilliwack Cattle Sales, five members of the Kooyman family, have been charged under the act with causing or permitting animals to be in distress.

It is the first time in B.C. that owners have been charged in such a case.

The owners were not immediately available for comment.

The SPCA investigated the farm after an undercover video shot by a member of the Mercy for Animals group was released.

“We are extremely pleased that in addition to laying charges against the individual employees, crown has also held the company and its directors accountable for this unacceptable treatment of the animals,” B.C. SPCA chief prevention officer Marcie Moriarty said in a statement.

The SPCA recommended that charges be laid after its investigation in 2014, but it took 20 months for that to happen.

“It did take a much lengthier time than one would have expected,” said Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice.

“The delay was unusual, but it is a relief to finally see charges come down and to see the wheels of justice in motion.”

Pippus was director of legal advocacy for Mercy For Animals when the video was shot and released. She said she was pleased the owners of the dairy operation were also charged.

“It’s really important that owners be held accountable for what’s taking place in their operations,” she said.

“All owners should have adequate training and supervision of their staff when animals are concerned. The animals are too vulnerable and the work is too sensitive to leave it in the hands of untrained and unskilled and irresponsible employees.”

Trevor Hargreaves, director of producer relations with the B.C. Dairy Association, said he was involved in the SPCA investigation from its beginning and was relieved that resolution of the matter is pending.

“It was such a dark time for the industry, and I think everybody wanted to really take a series of firm steps to move forward,” he said.

“I can really echo first hand the level of concern and upset that took place within this industry and just how concerned dairy farmers in British Columbia were about it, that it happened in their province and how contrary it is from acceptable practices and the way that a dairy farmer runs their operation.”

Hargreaves said the owners of Chilliwack Cattle Sales have changed aspects of their operation since the undercover video was taken.

“The farm has been very closely monitored in the aftermath,” he said.

“I know that they’ve put in a lot of different management protocols and some of their practices are a little bit different in terms of regulating all of their employees and just making sure from an operational perspective all their employees are very well trained and know exactly what they can and cannot do. I think they’re running a much tighter ship.”

The national code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle was referenced in B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act last summer. Hargreaves said that will streamline the legal system’s ability to prosecute those who abuse animals.

Pippus said she views that move as a way for people to defend against allegations of animal abuse. She wanted to see charges laid under Canada’s criminal code.

Pippus also said dairy farms should be subject to unannounced third party inspections to ensure compliance with the code of practice and its animal welfare components.

Hargreaves said the B.C. Milk Marketing Board has made compliance with the code of practice mandatory for dairies in the province and instituted a system of random inspections to ensure it is being followed.

As well, the B.C. Dairy Association has a memorandum of understanding with the B.C. SPCA to take a joint approach to animal care complaints.

If convicted, those charged in the abuse case face maximum fines of $75,000 and up to two years in jail.

Sixteen of the 20 charge related to dairy cow abuse and four involved the treatment of a pigeon. The latter charges were filed under the B.C. Wildlife Act.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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Comments

  • Anna Pippus

    Thanks for covering this important issue. I wanted to explain my concern that the incorporation of the dairy code of practice into the PCA Act serves as a way to defend against allegations of animal abuse. Currently, the Dairy Cattle Regulation is only incorporated to establish a defence to charges of animal cruelty. To protect animals, it must be incorporated as part of an offence, so that failing to comply with the code of practice is grounds for prosecution. I hope that anyone who says they are against animal cruelty and believes in the standards in the code of practice would support this move. Thanks again for hearing what I have to say.

  • ed

    Hunting is still allowed I hope. Oh good, because I know people across this land line up in some places to eat their favorite bear, dear, caribou, and many other somehow “humanly” killed wildlife. They do this before they go out to the hockey game, hoping to see concussion inflicting and bone jarring body contact or some tooth extracting fighting entertainment. Are these events all happening in the same nation or even in the same province. Strange world. Different rules for different people I suppose!

    • Harold

      Charges laid in BC dairy barn abuse case. What is your point? Charges need to be laid at Hockey games and toward hunters. Hunters like violence? Out law hunting and there will be less desire for Hockey? Are those the different rules? Animal anti-cruelty laws need to be extended to humans? Wild animals need to be taken into captivity so that we can do things right? How does this lead to the topic at hand? You’re a hard person to follow. In regards to the BC dairy barn, what we have being played out here, is a problem, cause, and a solution. Not so “strange world” and not so adventurous.

      • ed

        Then there is the indiscriminate bombing of innocent men, women and children by drones, but obviously we have to start somewhere, right. So it might as well be with animals that we love and care for by feeding, bedding and watering for milk or to grow larger or to reproduce so we can repeat the loving cycle again and again before we intentionally kill them. Good stuff. Solve the problems that you can reach out and touch by dragging some hard working good people’s names thru the mud while we close our eyes and pretend that we are not part of the real problems at large. It is so much easier and helps one get a good night’s sleep.

        • Harold

          What is happening on this farm is not the start to cleaning up the worlds problems nor is it an ending to the worlds problems. Law has never been a start nor a finish to world problems. Murder, theft, violence, for example. Law only decides what to do with the ones who offend the conscience of humanity. Those who get a good nights sleep are those who make sure no harm will come to those who enter into their four corners or under their watch. Your strength is of benefit to the weak. This article is merely a “movie” to us, and we are its “movie critic’s”.(comments) We have no casting part. A critic, to be heard properly, adheres to the content of the Movie. This article is a journal display of what’s in place for Animals. nothing more. Human abuse is in another court. The weak and the strong close their eyes only when they are powerless.

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