In a graphic video published this week, Mercy for Animals Canada exposed sadistic cruelty to cows at Canada’s largest dairy farm, which has led to calls for cruelty charges against workers and for stronger regulations and oversight.
The footage was obtained in May at Chilliwack Cattle Sales in Chilliwack, B.C., which is home to more than 3,500 cows. The video is as disturbing as it is heartbreaking, showing workers viciously beating cows with metal pipes, punching them, kicking them in the face, ripping hair out of their tails, lifting cows who were unable to move on their own with tractors and chains around their necks and leaving sick and injured cows without veterinary care, among other serious problems. During the first scene, workers can be heard laughing at the suffering they caused in the background.
Anna Pippus, the director of legal advocacy with Mercy for Animals, told CBC News: “Our investigator was not provided with adequate training or supervision. In addition, he repeatedly brought his concerns to company owners who failed to take any corrective action. The company allowed animal cruelty to flourish on its watch.”
Two workers accused of the cruelty who spoke out to CTV News backed up that statement, with one saying that management was aware of “about 80 percent of what was going on,” while another tried to defend their actions by saying they were just trying to get the job done. Despite the twisted logic being used to defend what they did, there’s no excuse for the level of violence, pain and fear they inflicted on those cows.
As per usual, everyone at the top has issued the standard response that they were both horrified and surprised by what happened, while owner Jeff Kooyman claims his family loves those cows and that the company has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to abuse. Yet, this isn’t the first time Chilliwack has been in trouble. In 2008, the company ended up in court for transporting six sick and injured cows who could not be moved “without undue suffering” and was again in the spotlight last year when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency charged a meat processing plant also owned by Kooyman for selling beef tainted with E.coli.
In this incident, the eight employees involved were originally suspended, but were at least fired later in the week. The BC SPCA is recommending cruelty charges for willfully causing pain and suffering to cows in their care and points to a larger problem in the industry.
While there are guidelines for the care and handling of dairy cows, there is no requirement to have them verified by third-party inspections and they haven’t been adopted into law. The SPCA is recommending that the Canadian Codes of Practice, which sets the minimum standards of care for farm animals, be incorporated into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act so that the standards can actually be enforced.
Some are now calling for a boycott of Saputo, which processes the milk, but current regulations make it virtually impossible to avoid Chilliwack’s milk because it’s mixed together with milk from other suppliers before being distributed. MFA is calling on the company to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on abuse, ensure proper care for sick and downed cows and to install video monitoring systems that can be accessed by the public.
While the industry tries to clean up its image and organizations push for stronger standards that can clearly be willfully ignored the easiest thing we can do to stop the cruelty inherent in dairy production is to pass on dairy products altogether. Is having to wonder if milk came from a place like this really worth it?
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