June 10, 2014 3:10 pm

Employees fired after video surfaces of alleged animal abuse on Chilliwack dairy farm

WATCH: The B.C. SPCA is pushing for animal cruelty charges after a hidden camera investigation revealed cows being kicked and beaten by staff. Francis Silvaggio reports. GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised.

VANCOUVER – The BC SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against eight former employees from Chilliwack’s Cattle Sales family farm, the largest dairy farm in Canada.

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“On June 2, the BC SPCA received an undercover video from the non-profit group Mercy for Animals Canada that showed the employees using chains, canes, rakes, their booted feet and their fists to viciously whip, punch, kick and beat the dairy cows, including downed and trapped cows who could not escape the abuse,” said Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer. “We immediately launched an investigation into the case and have recommended Criminal Code charges against the eight employees identified in the video for willfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering and injury to animals.”

The eight employees were originally suspended, pending the results of an investigation, but on Monday night they were fired.

BC SPCA constables visited the farm last week along with one of North America’s most respected dairy cattle experts, veterinarian Dr. James Reynolds, as part of an on-going investigation into the animal management practices of the Chilliwack company. The company, which supplies milk to brands such as Saputo and Dairyland, is currently cooperating with the investigation.

“The images in the undercover video are extremely disturbing and highlight an urgent need for better standards to protect farm animals in B.C. from abuse and neglect,” said Moriarty.

She added that while a Canadian Code of Practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle was published in 2009, she said its requirements have yet to be verified on farms through third-party inspections or adopted into B.C. law.

WATCH: Anna Pippus, director of Mercy for Animals, talks to BC1 anchor Leigh Kjekstad about the video (warning, some of the images may be disturbing for some viewers):

The Chilliwack Cattle Sales family farm is owned by the Kooyman family. They released a statement on Monday about the video and the allegations of animal cruelty. They said they were made aware of the allegations on Friday, June 6.

These allegations are extremely serious and we are devastated by the thought that animals in our care have been harmed.

Animal care is of primary importance on our farm. We have been working with the BC SPCA and regulatory authorities and will continue to do so throughout the investigation. In addition, we will be taking any and all steps necessary to assure that no such incident takes place on our family farm in the future.

These alleged actions in no way reflect the farming and animal care standards practiced by our family or by the dairy industry. As a farming family we are committed to providing the best care for our animals and have zero tolerance for animal abuse.

Dr. David Dykshorn and Dr. Rich Vanderwal of Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic regularly visit the farm and monitor animal health.

“We have had a working relationship with the Kooyman’s for over 20 years and can speak to their integrity and care for their animals,” said Vanderwal and Dykshorn. “Animal abuse is unacceptable on any stage and we actively work with the Kooyman family to ensure the highest level of animal welfare on their farm.”

The BC SPCA would like to see the Canadian Codes of Practice, which set out minimum standards of care for various farm animal species, be incorporated into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act so that the standards can be enforced. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have already taken the step of enshrining farm animal care standards into their provincial legislation.

“It is important that producers have clear expectations around standards of care for farm animals and that there is a system in place to monitor and enforce these standards,” said Moriarty.

“The images in the video we received were distressing and clearly unacceptable. British Columbians, including the society’s 80,000 supporters, are increasingly concerned about the treatment of farm animals. We look forward to working with government and industry on solutions to prevent further neglect and abuse among the 100 million farm animals raised in B.C. each year.”

WATCH: Marcie Moriarty speaks to Leigh Kjekstad about the video:

The Vancouver Humane Society said they would like to see random inspections and mandatory video surveillance of livestock operations following this investigation.

VHS spokesperson Leanne McConnachie, who examined the footage, said “individual acts of animal cruelty should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law but the industry must also be held to account for ensuring the humane treatment of animals.”

She also urged consumers to cut their consumption of animal products to reduce the demand for intensive livestock farming.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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