A clandestine video of animal abuse at a Chilliwack dairy farm could change the way dairy farms operate across the Fraser Valley and Canada. But one local farmer says those changes were already in the works before the troubling video came to light.
The Abbotsford-based BC Milk Marketing Board (BCMMB) will be forced to destroy all milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales, where employees were recently surreptitiously filmed abusing cows.
Saputo, the largest buyer of milk produced in British Columbia, issued a press release Monday calling for “strict reform” from dairy producers and stating they would no longer accept any milk that originates at the farm pending independent audits – this, after more than 90,000 people signed an online petition calling for a boycott.
Saputo operates a cheese plant in Abbotsford, and distributes products under the Dairyland label.
The BCMMB issued a statement Tuesday saying it was “concerned” with Saputo’s decision to refuse milk from the Chilliwack dairy farm, but that it would have to cease delivery of the products to the milk processor. With no other market, the board said it would be forced to destroy the farm’s milk.
Fraser Valley dairy farmer and BC Dairy Association (BCDA) board member Jeremy Wiebe said it’s dismaying to see the milk go to waste.
“As farmers, it’s painful to see animals being abused as they were,” he said. “But it also hurts to see good milk being dumped.”
Wiebe said that Saputo’s decision will see “thousands of litres” of milk destroyed. He was uncertain how such a large quantity of milk would be disposed of.
“The solution is not to dump the milk,” Wiebe said. “The solution is to continue to work with the SPCA.”
In its release, Saputo said, “We will not accept milk from the BC Milk Marketing Board supplied by this farm until we are fully satisfied that strict animal welfare practices are in place.
“The abuse brought to light in this case should be viewed as a catalyst for change to ensure the proper treatment of dairy cattle through appropriate, enforceable and legal measures including severe penalties for offenders.”
Wiebe said dairy farmers have no problem with strict oversight. He said Dairy Farmers of Canada was already developing a seven-point plan that would include regular inspections.
“Farmers are OK with that because we want to be able to prove that we take care of our animals,” he said.
Abbotsford’s 100-plus dairy farms ship about 142 million litres of milk annually, which is more than 21 per cent of B.C.’s total production.
The latest actions follow the release of an undercover video June 8, which showed graphic evidence of animal abuse at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s largest dairy farm. Eight employees were fired.
BC SPCA said it was investigating if cruelty charges would be laid.
Family spokesperson Jeff Kooyman told Black Press he was horrified by the video footage shot by Mercy for Animals Canada.
The Kooymans have been working with the BC SPCA and regulatory authorities, taking steps to ensure animal safety by installing cameras throughout the farm as well as revising hiring policies and seeking new training programs for new and current staff.
Saputo officials support the recommendation by the BC SPCA that the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, published in 2009, be adopted into provincial law.
– with files from Jennifer Feinberg