Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Canada’s largest dairy farm crippled by abuse allegations from undercover animal rights worker on his first mission

June 20, 2014 Brian Hutchinson, Huffington Post

VANCOUVER — Doug was raised on a small family farm and knows a thing or two about dairy cattle. Until very recently, he’d never encountered anything like Chilliwack Cattle Sales (CCS), which runs a giant milking operation an hour’s drive east of Vancouver.

CCS milks an astonishing 3,500 cows at its main location outside Chilliwack. It’s the largest single dairy farm in Canada, where the average operation runs just 77 cattle. Thanks to Doug, CCS is now the nation’s most notorious dairy, where unskilled, teenaged workers ran wild and allegedly tortured helpless Holsteins. A place where milkers “exhibited the same cruel and often sadistic behaviours,” according to one startled veterinarian. “This suggests that the conduct is part of the culture at this facility, and not simply the modus operandi of a rogue or mentally unstable individual.”

Just as disturbing are suggestions that CCS is not the only dairy operation where animal abuse takes place. Those familiar with large-scale farming in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, where most of the province’s dairy is produced, say the mistreatment of cows and other animals is no longer that uncommon. A culture of neglect has developed on some farms and bad behaviour is overlooked, says one veteran of the local dairy industry, who asked that his name not be published. “I’ve noticed this downhill spiral [leading to] to animal abuse,” he says. “It’s tied to farms getting bigger and cutting corners. Family-owned farms might have a father and son working with the livestock, and maybe a well-trained, hired person making a good income. But the big farms hire kids who work these long hours and night shifts when no one is watching.”

Doug watched, for an entire month. He works for Mercy For Animals Canada, an animal rights organization that sends operatives into the field to spy on farmers and livestock handlers.

CCS was a random target. Although its owner — Chilliwack’s Kooyman family — was once accused and later absolved of animal mistreatment, and the family’s meat processing plant near Vancouver is scheduled for trial next year on 11 counts of selling beef contaminated with E coli bacteria, CCS was not on the activist group’s radar.

On April 30, Doug — a pseudonym — drove up to the Chilliwack farm and applied for a job as a CCS milker. He had no resume, no references, but was hired on the spot and started work the next day. His wage was $16 per hour, typical for an unskilled dairy farm worker. But as a freshly-trained spy conducting his first-ever undercover investigation, Doug struck a rich vein.

He allegedly witnessed and recorded to video eight CCS employees — young, local men, some straight out of high school — violently abusing cows on the Chilliwack farm, beating them about their heads, legs, backs and udders with metal pipes and rakes, with bare fists and booted feet. Cows were chained at the neck, hoisted into the air and hit. Other animals — bulls, birds and rodents–were smacked around. Some employees laughed and made rude comments as they dished out the brutal punishment.

During the entire month of May, using a hidden video camera, Doug recorded dozens of examples of violent behaviour. Mercy For Animals compiled the recordings and this month sent a 25-page formal complaint to the RCMP and to the BC SPCA. The latter has recommended that criminal charges be laid against the alleged perpetrators. Mercy For Animals also produced for public viewing a brief video in which some of the incidents are depicted.

Reaction has been harsh. CCS now finds itself the target of a consumer boycott. B.C.’s Milk Marketing Board, which regulates the industry, announced earlier this week that “in accordance with processor requests and due to lack of market, [CCS's] milk will be destroyed.” On Friday, the province’s dairy association announced that milk pick-up at the farm had resumed.

“As a result of industry co-operation and collective action, the industry is now able to begin accepting milk from the farm in question, while imposing rigourous monitoring and testing measures to ensure that the animals in question are protected,” the association said in a statement. “The past few weeks have been a dark time for the BC Dairy Industry. The animal abuse incident at Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd. has caused our industry to take a long hard look at industry animal welfare issues.”

For their part, Kooyman family members expressed shock and disgust at the video footage. They claim they had no knowledge of animal abuse inside their Chilliwack dairy barns. They did not respond to the National Post‘s interview requests this week.

All eight men accused of animal abuse at the CCS dairy have been fired. One of them, Brad Genereux, posted this message on Facebook: “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[sic] for years.”

In its complaint to the BC SPCA and the RCMP, Mercy For Animals describes 14 incidents of alleged abuse involving Mr. Genereux. “Beats a cow who has recently given birth, as evidenced by the retained placenta hanging out of her uterus,” reads one incident report. “Attaches milking equipment to three separate bulls’ testes while they are trapped in the rotary [milking] parlour,” reads another. “The suffering bulls try to kick away the machinery but cannot.”

Before he was fired, another CCS employee occasionally posted cow-related messages on Facebook. “I strongly dislike creatures of the bovine variety,” Travis Keefer noted in February.

Mercy For Animals claims that in an incident video recorded May 13, Mr. Keefer “repeatedly whips cow trapped in parlour stall in hocks.” On the same day, he allegedly “jabs a cow in the face with a metal pole.” A day earlier, he allegedly “twists a cow’s tail until a ‘pop’ can be heard.”

Another former employee is cited 34 times in the complaint. “Viciously beats two cows for over two minutes, holding the cane with both arms and winding up above his head, clenching his jaw with the exertion. He then jams a cow in her sensitive genital region,” reads one incident report. “He says, ‘I just f**kin’ hit that cow like 50 times.’”

“Ties rope around a live pigeon’s neck, drags the bird along the concrete, ties the bird to the [rotating] milking parlour,” reads another citation, regarding the same former employee.

The Kooymans began milking in Chilliwack 60 years ago, starting with just a pair of cows. Ten years ago, their dairy had grown so large that the family decided to install a 72-stall rotary dairy parlour — the first of its kind in Canada — to speed production. It operates as a kind of bovine merry-go-round: Cows step onto the circular parlour; machines are hooked to their udders; the animals are milked as the parlour rotates. One complete turn takes about nine minutes. The milked cows step off the parlour, and more cows step up.

The milking parlour turns 23 hours a day, over three work shifts. Doug, the undercover investigator, recorded scenes in which CCS cows were trapped between a railing and the milking parlour, and then beaten. Most of the incidents of abuse were recorded during the late shift, according to Twyla Francois, Mercy For Animals director of investigations.

Veterinarians who viewed the video compilation expressed disgust and outrage. “The actions observed in this video are the most severe cases of animal abuse I have ever seen in 32 years as a bovine veterinarian,” says James Reynolds, a professor of large animal medicine at Western University, in the complaint filed to police.

“Two cows are observed being forced down by beatings at the entrance to the rotary parlour, effectively pinching and crushing them in the rotation of the parlour,” notes Dr. Reynolds. “The cows rotate and are twisted between pipe posts and themselves in the action and are obviously in severe pain and distress.”

CCS has decided to install video cameras inside its diary barns, as a preventative measure. Mercy For Animals wants the Kooyman family to live-stream its operation via the Internet. This would, in effect, make every viewer a potential animal rights investigator Doug, meanwhile, is now conducting his second covert operation, in another province.

Comment: Evidence clearly shows that abuse and cruelty was part of the culture at CCS. The reprehensible conduct by sadistic workers like Brad Genereux and Travis Keefer went unchecked. Jail time, at a minimum, is warranted. The magnitude of the crimes perpetrated on these terrified, helpless victims is unpardonable.


Read more: Undercover video at Chilliwack cattle farm leads to cruelty charges


June 17, 2014 Saputo vows to use “whatever resources I have” to reform dairy industry in wake of BC abuse of dairy cows