A BC SPCA investigation that included an undercover video has prompted 20 animal cruelty charges laid against Canada’s largest dairy farm, located in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
Crown counsel laid the charges against Chilliwack Cattle Sales LTD. Company and seven of its employees, according to the BC SPCA. Specifically, the charges break down as 16 counts under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and concern the various cruelty acts against dairy cows, while four of the counts are under the Wildlife Act and concern the treatment of a pigeon.
The BC SPCA was first tipped off to undercover video footage in June 2014. That video showed Chilliwack Cattle Sales 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 in a media release.
Warning: Graphic images
News of the abuse footage was first discussed in public at that time, as well. A Facebook page called “Support Chilliwack Cattle Sales,” which offers the tag line “We do not support abuse, but we do support the dairy industry,” was launched in June 2014 by an unaffiliated proponent of the dairy industry.
One immediate industry fallout from the allegations of abuse was when the BC Milk Marketing Board halted milk pickups at CCS, which at the time had 3,500 cows producing 100,000 litres of milk produced each day, according to the Chilliwack Times. That milk was ordered destroyed by the Milk Marketing Board.
Canada’s largest milk processor, Montreal-based Saputo, refused to accept milk from CCS at the time (among Saputo’s regional milk brands is B.C.’s Dairyland). A battle cry to boycott the entire dairy industry put the discussion of how we move milk around the country and province squarely in the spotlight. B.C.’s Avalon Dairy launched a line of traceable milk in 2015, meaning the milk is not pooled with milk from multiple farms, but rather has a walks the line alone from cow to carton.
The BC SPCA, however, continued their investigation of the alleged animal abuse at CCS, and now the CCS owners and employees are facing a legal battle. The accused and charges are as follows, per the BC SPCA:
Company employees Travis Keefer, Jonathan Talbot, Jamie Visser, Chris Vandyke, Cody Larson, and Brad Genereux are each charged with causing distress pursuant to s.9.1(2) of the PCA Act contrary to s.24(1) and one count of failing to care and protect an animal from distress pursuant to section 9.1(1) of the PCA Act. Chris Vandyke, Travis Keefer, and Jamie Visser also face an additional two charges (s.9.1(2) and s.9.1(1) of the PCA Act) specifically related to taking part in the lifting by a chain, kicking, and hitting of a cow, causing it to be in distress. An additional seventh employee, Lloyd Blackwell, faces charges in association with this incident.
For the first time, a B.C. company is being held accountable for acts of animal cruelty on the farm, with CCS’s owners, the Kooyman family, facing charges. “John Kooyman, Kenneth Kooyman, Wesley Kooyman, Jeffery Kooyman and Bradley Kooyman have each been charged with causing or permitting animals to be, or to continue to be in distress in violation of section 9.1(2) of the PCA Act and section 9.1(1) which imposes a positive duty on the part of a person responsible to adequately care and protect animals from circumstances that are likely to cause an animal distress,” notes the BC SPCA.
In the wake of the video surfacing, Moriarty points to the investigation and public outcry that followed as influential in key changes made when it comes to B.C. dairy cattle, chiefly the July 2015 adoption of more strident regulations aimed at protecting dairy cattle against cruelty. The change essentially clarified instances under which animal cruelty was a prosecutable offence.