A national animal-welfare organization is speaking out against suspected animal abuse at an Abbotsford dairy farm and is calling for more oversight in the industry.
Humane Canada, the federation for SPCAs and humane societies, says in a press release that it is angered by the news released last week about Cedar Valley Farms. It is urging government and the industry to take action – such as third-party auditing systems – to protect animals on commercial farms.
Humane Canada CEO Barbara Cartwright says video provided to Toronto-based Animal Justice – and released on their website – shows “shocking footage” of dairy cows being violently beaten, dragged and kicked on the Abbotsford farm.
“This new report of suspected animal abuse on another B.C. dairy farm is just the next in a long line of evidence that farmed animals are suffering while industry and government refuse to act,” she said.
Cartwright said, since 2012, there have been almost 20 reports of suspected animal abuse at unrelated farms across the country.
She said video evidence depicts everything from deplorable conditions and shoddy practices to criminal violations resulting in convictions of animal cruelty.
But Cartwright said instead of having “adequate oversight” to protect farm animals, government and the industry are moving toward anti-whistleblower legislation (known as “ag-gag” laws) to prevent footage from being released.
She said four provinces have passed ag-gag laws since 2019: Manitoba, PEI, Ontario and Alberta.
“The science is overwhelmingly clear that farmed animals are capable of cognitive thought, emotion, pain and suffering. They lack the ability to consent to or control their treatment by humans, which makes them highly vulnerable to abuse,” Cartwright said.
“However, the welfare of animals on farms is not regulated in Canada and is left to an industry that does not unilaterally recognize the sentience of the animals in their care.”
The BC Dairy Association has also denounced the actions depicted in the video footage. In a statement released Friday (Nov. 5), board chair and dairy farmer Holger Schwichtenberg said he doesn’t know any farmer who would accept that kind of behaviour.
“The treatment of animals shown in the video is abuse. It is extremely upsetting to watch,” he said. “We have a strong set of regulations for the care of animals on dairy farms, and this falls well outside our expectations.”
Schwichtenberg said the treatment in the video “clearly violates” the National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, which covers all aspects of the feeding, handling and housing of dairy cattle.
“All dairy farmers in B.C. know this; there are no excuses. The farm must be held accountable,” he said.
It was reported on Oct. 27 that the BC Milk Marketing Board had suspended the licence of Cedar Valley Farms based on information provided by the SPCA and a subsequent inspection of the farm.
The BC SPCA issued a separate press release, saying it had received video footage that “appears to be depicting very serious instances of animal abuse” at the east Abbotsford farm, located on Interprovincial Highway.
The SPCA said some of the footage appeared to be in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and potentially the Criminal Code of Canada.
Animal Justice says on its website that the video footage was sent to them anonymously, and they turned it over to the BC SPCA.
The investigation is continuing.
Cedar Valley Farms is a sole proprietorship owned by Cedarwal Farms. The two – along with Chilliwack Cattle Sales and the BC Milk Marketing Board – were named in a 2017 civil lawsuit from the dairy-producing giant Saputo over tainted milk shipments.
Chilliwack Cattle Sales was also the subject of a separate animal-cruelty case. The company and one director pleaded guilty to abusing their cattle and were handed a total of $300,000 in fines in December 2016.