OPINION: Chilliwack cow abuse — at least two sides to this story

This still from a video produced by animal rights organization Mercy for Animals at Chilliwack Cattle Sales shows a man repeatedly kicking a helpless cow in the head. - Mercy For Animals video
This still from a video produced by animal rights organization Mercy for Animals at Chilliwack Cattle Sales shows a man repeatedly kicking a helpless cow in the head.
— image credit: Mercy For Animals video

The nation’s eyes are on Chilliwack’s cows.

It will take years for Chilliwack Cattle  to get over the public relations pickle the company is now in.

The farm’s owners, the Kooyman family, tout it as a local, family farm. It is also Canada’s largest dairy factory farm.

After the video showing vicious beatings of cows was made public, the Kooymans’ initial statement came not from the “family farm” itself but from a Surrey-based crisis management company.

A cynic might note that while the Kooymans speak of being responsible, local, dairy producers, they first placed the health and welfare of 3,500 cows in the hands of eight abusive teenagers, and then they outsourced their apology to a PR firm.

So what of those mostly teenagers, now facing criminal charges for the unmistakable abuse caught on camera by an undercover agent working for the vegan-lifestyle promoting non-profit group Mercy for Animals?

One of the alleged culprits said on Twitter that there were two sides to the story. I told him that I’d love to hear his side.

“I have no comment unless you are a farmer thanks,” @Lars_Daddy replied.

He and others faced a backlash from their peers on Twitter during a back-and-forth on Monday evening.

“You don’t need to work on a farm to know wrong from right. And I do know what goes on thank you,” @alanakauppi tweeted.

“I’m not saying it was right or wrong I’m saying there’s 2 sides of this,” @Lars_Daddy responded.

Other possible participants in the abuse, or at least supporters of those involved, had lots to say on Twitter.

From @KyleTLinza: “People watch a 4 minute video and all of a sudden there expert farmers #getyourfactstraight #youknownothing.”

And “People should learn the real sorry before they start talking like they know whys going on #medialies.”

The media lied? I asked this young man to expand but he didn’t respond.

From @McCandless15: “Just gunna have a glass Of milk to cool down from this riot #wow #everyonehasadifferentview” and “...never said it was ok ? It’s brutal ! But I’ve seen more f--ked up sh-t on other farms.”

Some more nuanced messages were sent out by @bradgenereux14: “If you want to save the way factory farms and animals are treated stop supporting them by drinking and eating the animal products.”

And: “It’s pretty interesting seeing people put all the blame on 8 guys from a farm that’s been training and operating in this ways for years.”

Really? That’s how Chilliwack Cattle have been training and operating for years? Jeff Kooyman says the company did not know about the abuse and he has expressed shock and disgust.

Former supervisor Jamie Vissers, however, told CTV News that the Kooymans knew “80 per cent of what was going on.”

And while I am not in the business of crisis management, I wonder if the Kooymans and their hired PR guns have thought their strategy through.

The plan seems to be to feign ignorance of the abuse, fire the teenagers, some of whom are probably children of friends and neighbours and all of whom are savvy social media users who might hold a grudge.

Some of these young men will defend their actions, maybe even defend the company, but their employer threw them under the bus.

These men may just lash back when they realize they’ve been hung out to dry. And if this goes to trial, they may even have members of the Kooyman family testify against them.

The Kooymans are scrambling the best way they know how on high-priced PR flacks.

Fired teenagers are scrambling the best way they know how using social media to say this was normal practice, they were trained this way and the company knew what was going on.

Who do you believe?

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