In an open letter to the media issued Tuesday, deputy police Chief Luc Beaudoin says his officers killed the animals because they were threatening the public.
The video, recorded by a horrified witness, showed police cars, with lights and sirens going, chasing and surrounding one of the animals as officers fired at least 10 shots from close range.
The video has been seen more than 254,000 times on YouTube by viewers from around the world, stirring accusations that the Gatineau police lacked compassion for the animals and used excessive cruelty.
Beaudoin acknowledged that the public is questioning why police didn't use tranquilizers or corral the animals that were already destined for the slaughterhouse when they escaped from a trailer last Thursday.
But he says the video is 77 seconds long and does not reflect the reality of the intervention, which lasted more than an hour, during which, he says, police consulted with the animals' owner and other cattle breeders in an effort to calm the animals and isolate them.
"An hour during which every attempt failed, and during which one of the animals, who may not have appeared dangerous to witnesses who had not seen the preceding 60 minutes, charged vehicles, moved a trailer by its sheer physical strength, and managed to once again escape, right there in the city near a school and busy roads."
Beaudoin also says police contacted wildlife officers "who unfortunately were unable to assist us."
He says the police are trained to protect the public and "while none of them wants to see an animal suffer, public safety must be the primary consideration."
Beaudoin says the Gatineau police service has launched an administrative investigation, which is standard whenever an officer uses a gun.
He says the investigation's recommendations will be reviewed, adding "we all stand to learn something from this unfortunate event."
The animals' deaths have prompted a letter-writing campaign, organized by Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, that targets the Gatineau police force.
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