The animal protection group behind a 2014 undercover video that showed cows being beaten at a farm in Chilliwack says it’s praising law enforcement for finally seeing justice in this matter.
On Tuesday, 20 counts of animal cruelty have been laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd. and seven of its employees in connection with the video.
The SPCA received the undercover video two years ago, showing 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.
FROM 2014: A hidden camera investigation revealed cows being kicked and beaten by staff. Francis Silvaggio reports. GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised
According to the BC SPCA, 16 of the 20 counts fall under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and involve alleged acts of cruelty against dairy cows.
Six employees are each charged with causing distress to an animal and failing to care for and protect an animal under the Protection of Cruelty to Animals Act. Three of the workers, along with an additional seventh person, face an additional two charges related to lifting a cow by a chain and kicking and hitting the animal.
WATCH: BC Dairy Association on the changes made to the industry after the Chilliwack investigation
It’s the first time a B.C. company has been held accountable for acts of animal cruelty on a farm.
Krista Hiddema, managing director for Mercy For Animals Canada, the group that initiated the investigation at the farm, says one of their members, who went undercover at the farm in June 2014, witnessed some of the most egregious animal abuse their organization has ever seen.
Hiddema calls the charges a victory for the abused animals.
“It sets the foundation and shows factory farms across this country that animal abuse will not be tolerated by Canadians,” she says.
Hiddema says they have now done nine undercover investigations in Canada. “Every facility that we have gone to randomly, we have been exposed to cruel animal abuse,” she says. “This leads us to believe that this type of animal abuse runs rampant across the country, in factory farms and slaughterhouses.”
She says there are systematic issues that are led by the owners and managers of these farms, and that’s why their organization is pleased charges were laid both against the workers and the five owners of Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd.
While Mercy for Animals does not believe the abuse is part of the “normal” for the industry, Hiddema claims these acts occur regularly behind the closed doors of factory farms and slaughter houses.
“It’s up to not only government to ensure that we have strong laws to protect animals, but it’s up to the owners and managers of these farms to ensure that what goes on behind these closed doors meets the bare minimum levels of protection for all farmed animals.”
Read more about the original investigation
Hiddema says they believe the Chilliwack investigation is just scratching the surface, which is why they are calling on all provinces, including British Columbia, to ensure that the dairy code of practice is given the full force of law.
“What exists right now is woefully inadequate,” says Hiddema.
She says Mercy for Animals is asking ministers of agriculture across the country to ensure that the Dairy Code of Practice is included as a proactive obligation in every province’s animal welfare legislation.
WATCH: BC Dairy Association on industry changes after Chilliwack investigation
With files from Jon Azpiri