Quebec cheese giant Saputo under fire for case of cattle cruelty in B.C.

MONTREAL – While eight workers in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley have been fired over a case of cruelty at a cattle farm, animal rights activists in Montreal are calling on Saputo to make big changes.

Mercy For Animals, a non-profit organization against all forms of animal farming, released disturbing images reportedly taken at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s largest dairy farm. The undercover video clearly shows cows being mistreated.

The video was enough to prompt an investigation by BC’s SPCA. At least eight workers could face criminal charges related to animal cruelty.

“On the video we saw workers viciously beating animals with canes and with metal bars, we saw them hoisting cows with chains around their neck on tractors, they were cows that had fallen and couldn’t get up,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and board member of Mercy For Animals Canada.

There is a Quebec connection to the case. The BC farm in question is the main supplier for Dailyland, a company owned by Quebec-based Saputo since 2001.

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Saputo has the ethical responsibility and the authority and power as a major market player to ensure that animals are not abused on its farms and Saputo needs to be proactive,” said Labchuk.

In a written statement, Saputo insists it doesn’t condone any form of animal cruely, “We are outraged by the alleged incidents,” reads the statement while underlining the fact that the company can’t chose where it gets its milk.

“Dairy processors are required under provincial legislation to purchase their milk through the BCMMB, and therefore we do not have the ability to select the farms from which milk is sourced.”

Montreal’s SPCA may not have jurisdiction in this case, but believes it’s an opportunity to call for better industry standards.

“This case really highlights the fact that there is a need for change and that we do need to apply the Canadian code of practice,” said Anita Kapuscinska of SPCA Montreal.

All dairy farmers across the country are expected to follow the code but it’s simply voluntary in most provinces, including BC and Quebec.

The SPCA is calling on provinces to integrate the farmers’ code of practice into the Animal Health Protection Act, also known as P-42.

Cats and dogs right now are protected by the P-42 and farm animals aren’t so we’d like for all animals to be protected in the same way,” said Kapuscinska.

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Meanwhile, Dairy Farmers of Canada is also condemning the alleged animal cruetly at Chilliwack Cattle Sales.

“What has happened there is absolutely shocking, it’s reprehensible it does not represent what we do,” said David Weins, Vice-President of Dairy Farmers of Canada, who insist farmers are already proactive in trying to prevent such cases of abuse.

But Mercy For Animals, who captured the images on camera, is convinced the best way to put a stop to cruelty is to avoid animal products altogether.