Sale of milk resumes at BC dairy farm following video documenting extreme cruelty
A British Columbia dairy farm is now selling milk again following an undercover investigation that has shocked and angered consumers and prompted a temporary boycott by one of the farm’s largest customers. The investigation surrounds Chilliwack Cattle Sales, the country’s largest dairy farm, where an investigator with Mercy for Animals Canada videotaped what is arguably some of the worst-ever documented abuse of farm animals. In the video, cows are seen cornered while workers punch and kick them, and beat them with metal rods and chains.
One cow trapped in machinery is repeatedly kicked in the head. Cows too weak to stand are strung up by their necks. Workers laugh or swear as the torture is inflicted.
The BC SPCA, which was made aware of the video and has since launched an investigation into the abuse, is now pressing for criminal charges. While the farm’s owner alleges he didn’t know about the abuse, two of the eight farm employees who have been fired have told CTV News, “I wouldn’t say [the owners] should be completely shocked. They knew about 80 per cent of what was going on.”
On June 16th, following intense public pressure, Canada’s largest milk processor, Saputo Dairy Products, announced it had stopped buying milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales. Four days later, the company announced it had resumed buying. As stated on Saputo’s Facebook page: “We have now reviewed satisfactory independent veterinarian reports confirming the farm has implemented these practices. Following these developments, Saputo will resume — along with all BC processors — accepting milk from the BCMMB [BC Milk Marketing Board] originating from this farm.”
Going by the response on Facebook, many people are not pleased with Saputo's decision. The company has responded with a statement saying that “Saputo, like all dairy producers across Canada have no say as to where their milk comes from. It’s all controlled through the provincial milk marketing boards. You can go here to get a better understanding of the process: http://bcmilkmarketing.worldsecuresystems.com/about.”
There is now a petition circulating on Change.org demanding that the company adopt an animal welfare policy that includes, among other things, zero tolerance for animal abuse. As of this writing, it has over 110,000 signatures.
What Dairy Farmers of Canada are saying:
While Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) have responded to the video and agreed the abuse is “intolerable”, they say it is the exception, pointing to high standards of care that include a new Dairy Animal Care Assessment Program that will be piloted this fall and rolled out to all farms in 2015. Using infrastructure already in place for the Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) program (the CQM focuses solely on food safety), the new animal care program will make welfare-related auditing mandatory for all Canadian dairy farms. According to DFC, the program is currently in draft mode and is based on Canada’s current Code of Practice for dairy cows. DFC hasn’t yet specified how it will be enforced. Once complete, the program will be available on the DFC website.
Canada announces phase-out of antibiotic use in livestock
Amid growing concerns over the rise of antibiotic resistance and emergence of "super bugs", the Canadian government recently announced it will be phasing out the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock animals.
Canadian farmers use nearly 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics per year in the feed of chickens, pigs and cattle as a way to accelerate their growth. This practice is being increasingly challenged as certain key antibiotics used to fight infections in both humans and animals are also used en masse in livestock production.
Once the new policy is fully implemented, antibiotics will be permitted for use only under the direction of a veterinarian for disease treatment. However, some skeptics point out that in many cases, producers don't admit to using the drugs for growth promotion, so this loophole will need to be addressed in order for the new policy to be fully effective.
Farm animal welfare hit by funding cuts
Important research that helps set basic welfare standards for farm animals may be a thing of the past if funding cuts at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) continue in the way we’ve seen recently. This year, AAFC has eliminated a number of key research positions, in areas ranging from the role of nutrition in animal health to preventing and detecting stress in animals during transport.
The cuts are the subject of an article in the BC SPCA magazine, AnimalSense. The author is Dr. David Fraser (pictured here), a professor in the University of British Columbia’s Animal Welfare Program. In the article, Fraser notes several top animal scientists — some renowned globally for their expertise — whose funding has been eliminated or significantly cut.
“Research is essential for improving animal welfare,” he points out in the article. “Without the science, there would be no Canadian Codes of Practice and no global animal welfare standards adopted by the 178 member nations of the World Organisation for Animal Health. Apart from standards, the research supports good animal care practices such as gentle but effective handling, early detection and prevention of illness, and the design of comfortable housing.”
Fraser also says that while the humane movement has traditionally been good at hands-on activism, it has not as actively supported animal welfare research. “Now,” he asks, “with a significant government retreat from animal welfare science, will the humane movement take up the torch?”
The article is in the spring-summer 2014 issue of AnimalSense. You can subscribe to it as well as download past issues here.
Since 1990, Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC) has been dedicated to promoting a harmonious relationship among people, animals and the environment. A federally incorporated non-profit organization, AAC operates with the help of a small staff of paid and volunteer workers committed to electoral politics, legislative advocacy, research, education and rescue.
Animal Alliance of Canada
Working to protect companion, farm and wild animals, some of the campaigns AAC is currently working on include the Ontario spring bear hunt, feral cat care and protection, pound seizure of cats and dogs, the Canadian commercial seal hunt, the Ontario mourning dove hunt, and horse slaughter. A complete list of victories and ongoing projects can be found on the AAC website
AAC works closely with CCFA — most recently, we collaborated on the Maple Lodge Farms court case
— and also processes some of CCFA’s monthly donations.
The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals would like to commend Animal Alliance of Canada for their efforts for animals, and thank them for being a CCFA member organization.
Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, by Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott, is a wake-up call to changes needed to factory farming practices. There’s a background story of the evolution of farms to their present unsustainable place, and harsh reminders about the costs to animals and the environment.
The book is very readable, with tales of realities facing farmed animals, gleaned from Lymbery’s experience as a campaigner and now CEO of UK’s Compassion in World Farming
— an organization founded in 1967 by farmer Peter Roberts who decried the fate of animals taken off the land and confined in closed buildings.
Lymbery offers helpful reminders about ensuring a sustainable food supply without confining animals on factory farms: feed the cereals now fed to animals to people — as many as three billion. Don’t waste food at home or in supermarkets. Each of us can make a difference three times a day with meal choices.
The true cost of the $4 burger would be about $100 if all costs, including environmental, were included — but of course they’re not.
CCFA promotes funding for sow stall conversions
Ontario is making funds available to Ontario pig producers to convert barns from sow stalls to loose housing for mother pigs. Funds are available from the federal-provincial-territorial five-year agriculture policy, Growing Forward 2.
The program is one of a number of government initiatives for farm improvements. CCFA helped spread the word to producers with letters to farming publications.
Speaking up at Queen's Park
CCFA Director Stephanie Brown spoke about factory farming at a Toronto Pig Save rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto on May 12th. Other speakers included writer and activist Sylvia Fraser. The rally was held to voice opposition to government subsidies that essentially support cruel practices
— sow stalls, for example — used in factory farming of pigs.
Poomba the pot-bellied pig
Wishing Well Sanctuary has opened their hearts and their home again to their newest arrival, Poomba, the pot-bellied pig. Poomba was a companion animal until the family that owned him no longer wanted him. He ended up at the Timmins Humane Society, which then reached out to local sanctuaries for help homing him. Wishing Well, having lost Wally the pig this past spring, decided to take Poomba in.
Sanctuary owner Brenda Bronfman adoringly describes Poomba as a delight and a lovebug. With tail constantly swishing, he’s always excited to tromp off with a treat he's found — when he’s not getting back rubs and massages in the sun. Poomba is the smallest of the pot-bellied pigs, not yet fully mature, and a good reminder of how large these animals can grow.
Now, in his forever home at Wishing Well
, Poomba spends his days surrounded by fellow pig and goat rescuees, and his human caregivers who lovingly dote on him.
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