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Video: Chilliwack dairy farm workers face animal cruelty charges

The BC SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against eight employees of Canada’s largest dairy farm in Chilliwack. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
The BC SPCA is recommending charges of animal cruelty against eight employees of Canada’s largest dairy farm in Chilliwack.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

Eight workers from Kooyman's dairy farm in Chilliwack have been fired in the wake of allegations Friday of animal cruelty.

Video footage from the farm spurred BC SPCA to launch an investigation at the farm on Friday.

Jeff Kooyman, one of the owners of Chilliwack Cattle Sales, told The Progress the family is "devastated and deeply saddened" by what has come to light.

The family runs the largest dairy farm in Canada.

The video (below) features graphically violent scenes of a man striking a cow with a stick and another where a cow was kicked in the head after it got stuck on a milking parlour.

"The footage is not pretty. That's not who we are. We are devastated and deeply saddened to think some of our animals might have been harmed in this way," Kooyman said.

It happened on the night shift at the farm, which is one of three daily milking sessions.

"These alleged actions in no way reflect the farming and animal care standards practised by our family or by the dairy industry.

"As a farming family we are committed to providing the best care for our animals and have zero tolerance for animal abuse," said the dairy farmer.

He said he could barely watch the video footage.

"It was horrifying and we are shocked," he said. "We consider what we saw totally unacceptable."

Warning: Graphic content

The dairy farm on Prairie Central has 3,500 head of cattle and 25 to 30 employees, and it's run by seven Kooyman sons.

BC SPCA officials say that all eight employees involved have been suspended pending the results of the investigation. They have since been fired.

“On June 2, the BC SPCA received an undercover video from the non-profit group Mercy for Animals Canada that showed 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,” said Marcie Moriarty, BC SPCA chief prevention and enforcement officer.

Charges are being laid for the willful causing of "unnecessary pain, suffering and injury to animals.”

SPCA officials were on the property last week along with respected dairy cattle expert, Dr. James Reynolds, as part of an on-going investigation into animal management practices at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, which is currently cooperating with the investigation, Moriarty said.

"Animal care is of primary importance on our farm," he said. "We have been working with the BC SPCA and regulatory authorities and will continue to do so throughout the investigation."

They're taking decisive steps.

"We will be taking any and all steps necessary to assure that no such incident takes place on our family farm in the future," Kooyman pledged.

He's never been through anything like this.

"We were shocked."

They have a supervised monitoring system that is supposed to prevent such incidents, but were unaware.

"We don't know why the employee who shot this footage didn't come to us with this."

They will be installing a surveillance camera system for the continued safety of their animals, along with more intensive training for farm workers.

"I'd love to take this month back. I show up at 3 a.m. and grab a coffee. I never noticed anything out of place."

Dr. David Dykshorn and Dr. Rich Vanderwal of Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic regularly visit the farm and monitor animal health.

“We have had a working relationship with the Kooymans for over 20 years and can speak to their integrity and care for their animals,” Dr. Dykshorn said in the press release. “Animal abuse is unacceptable on any stage and we actively work with the Kooyman family to ensure the highest level of animal welfare on their farm.”

Media will be touring the farm at 47749 Prairie Central Road on Tuesday.

“The images in the undercover video are extremely disturbing and highlight an urgent need for better standards to protect farm animals in B.C. from abuse and neglect,” said Moriarty.

The BC SPCA is committed to working with the B.C. government, the BC Dairy Association and other industry associations on measures to ensure the safe, humane treatment of farm animals while supporting the viability of B.C. producers.

“It is important that producers have clear expectations around standards of care for farm animals and that there is a system in place to monitor and enforce these standards.”

Details about the BC SPCA’s involvement in welfare initiatives for dairy cattle is available at spca.bc.ca/dairycattle.

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jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Jennifer Feinberg on Twitter

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