Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada's largest dairy farm, will fire eight employees after disturbing undercover video surfaced showing the workers physically abusing cows, the company said late Monday night.
“As a company we were not given a chance to view the footage until it aired on television tonight,” said Jeff Kooyman, who co-owns the farm with his siblings, in a statement.
“Now that it has aired we are taking immediate action to terminate all employees involved as well as take several steps to ensure that this type of abuse never happens again.”
The undercover video from the non-profit group Mercy for Animals Canada — shot by a former employee of the farm — shows dairy cows being whipped and beaten with chains and canes, as well as punched and kicked.
The recording, which was brought to the B.C. SPCA last week, also shows dairy cows suffering from open wounds and injuries, and being lifted by their necks with chains and tractors.
Anna Pippus, the director of legal advocacy with Mercy for Animals, alleges the company failed to provide adequate training or respond to the concerns raised by their undercover member before the release of the video.
"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," said Pippus.
The B.C. SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against the eight employees.
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The statement released Monday also said that the company will be working with authorities to "implement longer periods of training for new employees," as well as provide animal welfare training for all of its current workers. Closed circuit security cameras will also be installed at the facility.
'Terrible and shocking'
Marcie Moriarty, the B.C. SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer, described the abuse captured on tape as absolutely horrific.
"It's terrible to actually say but it looks very intentional on their part, whether it was inflicting pain and suffering simply for the sake of it ... very terrible and shocking," said Moriarty.
The B.C. SPCA launched an investigation into the abuse allegations last week and Moriarty says the Crown is now considering whether to go ahead with charges.
The eight workers identified in the video could face charges of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering and injury to animals.
Moriarty said the organization is still investigating the treatment of animals by the Chilliwack Cattle Sales farm, which had so far been very cooperative.
'Obviously we failed'
Kooyman said earlier on Monday that his family is devastated, and that he had no idea anything like this was happening during the night shift, calling the video "horrific."
"The guys were going crazy. I couldn't imagine how people could do that to animals," said Kooyman.
As the biggest dairy farm in Canada, Chilliwack Cattle Sales supplies brands such as Saputo and Dairyland.
Kooyman insisted the farm has zero tolerance for animal abuse and it will be installing cameras in the barns and retraining staff.
"Obviously we failed. Our employees have failed and we are going to be putting in a new training program to ensure that this never happens again."
"This is a family farm and this is not what we're all about ... Maybe I failed to instill the passion and love that we have into our employees."
Kooyman said some of the employees involved in the investigation had been with the farm a couple of years, while others were fairly new.
All eight of the employees were previously suspended when the farm was alerted to the allegations by the B.C. SPCA last week.
Lack of standards
Dave Taylor, chairman of the B.C. Dairy Association, said the SPCA had done an "excellent job" investigating the allegations, and the association was "deeply concerned and saddened" by the alleged abuse.
Moriarty said the video raises the issue that B.C. does not have standards for animals raised for food.
"I think the only outcome that we hope can come from seeing this is not only getting the people responsible ... but also to really examine standards of care applied for farm animals raised for food in this province."
In April, Mercy for Animals Canada released an undercover video showing baby calves being kicked and punched, and detained in confining crates with little room to move at a Délimax Veal-affiliated farm in Quebec.