The violent abuse of birds recorded by animal rights activists at Fraser Valley chicken farms is “absolutely sickening” and the worst thing the executive director of the BC Chicken Marketing Board says he’s seen in 43 years in the business.
“This is beyond anything that any normal person would conceive of to be normal behaviour,” Bill Vanderspek said in an interview Wednesday. “I was just disgusted.”
In the wake of the undercover footage of employees throwing, kicking, stomping and tearing apart birds at Chilliwack chicken farms, five employees and one supervisor of the local farm labour company involved have been fired, according to the company’s president.
“We are sickened with the footage and want to ensure all our suppliers and producers that this is not reflective of who we are, our fundamental beliefs or behaviour we accept from our employees,” said Dwayne Dueck of Elite Farm Services in a statement issued Tuesday.
The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) issued a statement Tuesday calling the video “shocking and reprehensible,” adding that they have a third-party audited Animal Care Program that is enforced on every farm.
“If a farm is found not to be complying with the Animal Care Program standards, or is causing undue suffering to birds, the farmer is subject to penalties and the proper authorities will be contacted,” the statement said, in part.
And while Vanderspek of the BC Chicken Marketing Board said he makes no excuses for anyone, chicken farmers should not be the focus of ire. Day-old birds are delivered to the chicken farmers by the processors who are also responsible for hiring chicken catchers.
“The farmer is supposed to be onsite monitoring what is going on, it’s his farm and his birds,” he added. “But the farmer can’t be everywhere at once.”
Vanderspek said his board is set to meet soon to discuss possible changes in the industry such as increased oversight and regulation to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
As for the individual from Mercy for Animals who filmed the abuse, Vanderspek said he is very concerned about the inaction of that “undercover operative” in the face of such obvious abuse.
“If he saw this every night for 19 nights, he is as guilty as anyone for not reporting it the RCMP or the farmer.”
The SPCA said Monday evening it is investigating after receiving the video on June 9 of workers, including a supervisor, of Elite Farm Services “abusing and torturing” chickens. The footage was filmed between May 10 and June 9.
Mercy for Animals also released a series of comments from veterinarians and other experts in farmed animal welfare, who universally decried the behaviour of workers in the videos.
“The animal abuse depicted in this video is some of the most brutal and sadistic that I have ever witnessed,” said Ohio veterinarian Dr. Lee Schrader who has 35 years of experience.
“Kicking and throwing chickens is animal abuse,” said Dr. Temple Grandin, who is a global expert on animal welfare and an advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This is some of the worst footage I’ve observed in a broiler facility,” said Dr. Katherine van Ekert Onay, an Australian veterinarian with experience in animal welfare on farms.
“The images in this video are absolutely sickening and the individual employees and the companies involved need to be held accountable,” said Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer.
The chicken-catching service had been hired to round up chickens for transport to the Lilydale/Sofina Foods slaughter plant in Port Coquitlam, the SPCA said in a statement.
The SPCA has called on the province’s poultry industry to suspend the workers involved, suspend contracts to the company until the matter is resolved, and review how it monitors how workers treat chickens.