Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


How long should we wait to act?

June 11, 2014 These Glass Walls

Mercy For Animals Canada has been very busy and I find myself getting increasingly angry and frustrated.

Earlier this week they broke yet another investigation – their third this year, this one at Canada’s largest dairy, supplier to Saputo and its subsidiary, Dairyland. The two-and-a-half-minute video shows staff at the Chilliwack Cattle Company (a.k.a. Chilliwack Cattle Sales, a.k.a. Kooyman farm) abusing cows in horrific ways that would make all but the most hard-hearted person recoil and gasp in sympathy for the animals.

The video shows workers kicking and punching the cows, beating them with rakes, chains and metal pipes, viciously poking at open wounds, screaming obscenities at the animals, hoisting them up by chains around their necks, and more.

This farm — again, the largest dairy supplier in Canada — was chosen at random, as are all the farms Mercy For Animals Canada has investigated. The story was featured on CTV’s national newscast, made front page news on the website of CBC, Canada’s national public broadcaster, and has appeared prominently in newspapers large and small, local and national, across the country.

Dave Taylor, chairman of the B.C. Dairy Association, said "We feel it vital to assert that this abuse is in no way common practice in our industry." The dairy owners say they’re shocked and horrified by what they saw, that it’s completely unacceptable and they have “zero tolerance” for animal cruelty, and they have now fired the eight workers involved. It is possible they may be sincere. But without exception, every single farm owner whose farm has ever been investigated, in any country I can think of, has said exactly the same thing. And yet it happens at virtually every farm. How can that be? If every time it happens it’s decried by the industry as an isolated incident, an anomaly, every single time...then doesn’t that mean it’s the norm? The results of every investigation can’t possibly be an anomaly. When the results are the same again and again, it’s a pattern. It is what happens every day.

When the undercover investigator at Chilliwack Cattle complained to management — specifically to Brad Kooyman — Kooyman’s response was "Watch for that and make sure nobody hits them unnecessarily." He did not take direct action, he did not say how the worker should make sure the abuse didn’t happen, and his response in fact suggests that there are times he thinks it is necessary to hit the cows.

The bottom line is, as Director of Legal Advocacy with Mercy for Animals Anna Pippus said, “The company allowed animal cruelty to flourish on its watch."

The general reaction to MFA Canada’s video seems to be “Oh, I can’t watch!” And this is why I am angry. Most people profess to love animals and abhor their abuse, and most of them have yogurt for breakfast, like to put some cream cheese on a bagel and relish a smear of brie on a cracker. And yet they don’t want to know where their favourite dairy products come from. This seems so contrary. As a society, we want our food labelled. We want to know if it’s organic, if it’s GMO, we want our fruit free of pesticides and our meat free of hormones and antibiotics. We want to know where our food comes from, and damn it, it’s our right! Well, here it is.

If you eat dairy, I am begging you to watch the video. Please see with your eyes — and your heart — what the cows endure with their bodies. If they have to live it because we like dairy, I think we can watch it for two minutes. We owe them that, at least.

We don't need dairy for our health — really! —and there are lots of great alternatives. Believe me, I know how people feel about ice cream and cheese. Dairy was once my favourite food group and I could not imagine giving it up. I would never have believed I would stop eating dairy and not even miss it. And now? I don't give a damn about dairy. I do give a damn about not being complicit in the kind of cruelty that is captured time and again in undercover investigations, and it was an investigation much like this one that changed me.

Please, please understand: Organic dairy does not mean cruelty-free. The dairy industry supplies the veal industry. There is no separate slaughterhouse for the “happy cows” where they are painlessly put to “sleep.” There are no happy cows in this scenario.

No one can say anymore that they don't know. They can only say they don't care enough to do anything about it. If you eat dairy, please reconsider your choices.

May 18, 2017 update: A judge sentenced the three who pleaded guilty in the Chilliwack Cattle Sales case to jail time. BC Supreme Court Justice Gary Cohen handed Travis Keefer to seven days jail and he is forbidden from being in care or control of animals for one year. Chris Vandyke and Jamie Visser were sentenced to 60 days in jail and are banned from owning animals for three years. This is the first time in Canadian history that workers were sentenced to jail for malicious animal abuse after an undercover investigation by an animal protection organization. The charges stemmed from a June 2014 video released by Mercy for Animals.

The entire animal agriculture industry itself is inherently abusive & cruel, and for those cows to be further subjected to torture is extremely disturbing and repugnant. Please continue to fight for the voiceless. The legal system responds to changing values & concerns within society.

Read more: Saputo vows to use “whatever resources I have” to reform dairy industry in wake of BC abuse of dairy cows