Animal Abuse is NEVER Okay

Nearly two years ago – June 2014 – animal abuse was uncovered at a local dairy farm. Employees at a large dairy farm just 20 minutes away from our farm were filmed beating and inhumanely treating cows. The news rocked our industry, disgusting farmers and consumers alike. I had begun a Facebook page for the purpose of giving our consumers a look behind our figurative barn doors just a few months before this was aired, and so I shared my thoughts with this post: https://www.facebook.com/creeksidedairy/posts/304689016360792

Flash-forward to yesterday, and the employees that were involved in the abuse as well as the owners of the farm have been charged with 16 counts of cruelty to animals. (An additional four counts have been laid against a few of the employees under the Wildlife Act for an incident involving a pigeon.) As per CTV news: 6 employees have been “charged with causing distress and failing to protect an animal from distress”. Three of these “are also charged with two other counts relating to kicking and hitting a cow. A seventh worker is also charged, but the SPCA hasn’t revealed with which count or counts.

Marcie Moriarty [chief enforcement officer of the SPCA] said the investigation also marks the first time a B.C. company has been held accountable for acts of cruelty on a farm.

“We are extremely pleased that in addition to laying charges against the individual employees, Crown has also held the company and its directors accountable for this unacceptable treatment of the animals,” she said.” In addition to this, the farm owners “are all charged with causing or permitting animals to be in distress and of another count, which requires people responsible for animals to protect them from circumstances likely to cause them distress.” Marcie stated.

Let me be absolutely clear: Abuse to dairy cows, or to any animal, is NEVER, EVER okay. As dairy farmers, we are committed to stellar animal care, and we are emotionally attached to the gentle giants with whom we spend our days. We treat our cows well because we know that a well-cared-for cow is a happy cow, and happy cows are productive cows. But beyond that, the most important reason that we treat our cows well is because it simply is the right thing to do. Period.

At the time that the abuse was uncovered, Dairy Farmers of Canada were working towards implementing the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle as mandatory on all dairy farms. This Code has been praised by animal welfare groups as the best and most comprehensive of its type in the world. Instead of waiting for the implementation of the Code over the following few years, our provincial milk marketing board decided to make adherence to the Code mandatory on all BC dairy farms beginning October 1, 2014, thereby demonstrating to our consumers that the milk they buy in the stores is produced ethically and responsibly, especially in light of this incredibly unsettling incident.

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In light of these new developments, I’d like to assure our consumers that our family and all of the dairy farm families across Canada remain firmly committed to proper animal care. We love our cows and we treat them well. For proof of this, I invite you to take a look at the posts I have shared on my Facebook page (find it on the left hand margin of this blog post)  over the past two years. Another great source of transparent information about Canadian dairy farming can be found on my colleague Farmer Tim’s Facebook page. Along with our fellow dairy farmers of Canada, we condemn in the strongest possible terms any abuse to any animals and we look forward to repairing and maintaining the public’s confidence in our industry.

7 thoughts on “Animal Abuse is NEVER Okay

  1. Meghan says:

    Don’t you think it’s a little extreme? How else do you pick of a fallen cow within that confined space? ” If a cow was being hurt, they would run” says a farmer I know. I also know one of the men being charged and his opinion and what he shares is MUCH different that what overdramatic CTV reporters have to say. I know multiple people who worked at Kooymans and it’s a whole different story. Just saying…..

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    • I don’t think the charges against the employees are extreme at all! Leveraging the same charges against the shareholders in CCS did cause me to raise my eyebrows; while I do believe that the owners should be held responsible, as they are ultimately responsible for how their cows are treated and how their farm is run, perhaps they should be charged with different offences than the abuse participants.

      As for this being the only way to pick up a cow fallen in the rotary parlour: while I know there is no other option now, more planning should have gone into preparing for a scenario like that. For example, a new rotary parlour currently under construction at a nearby farm includes a special hoist constructed for just that type of scenario.

      But it’s not that hoisting by the neck that bothers me so very much; it’s the vicious and cruel manner in which those employees dealt with those poor cows. The vicious caning of a cow clearly unable to get up. Taking a cow’s feet out from under her with a hard switch of the cane, then beating the miserable fallen animal where she lay. These cows couldn’t run, they were jammed up against gates and fencing. I think that the video speaks for itself, regardless of CTVs commentary. If I saw one of our employees wielding a cane on oyr cows like that (we don’t even own one) I would grab it out of his hands and turn it on him. There’s no excuse for that type of violent treatment to cows. Period.

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      • Meghan says:

        I do agree that the actions were not right. However, the public reaction and criminal chargers upon the offenders are harsh. I won’t condone Kooymans for what happened but it more or less out of their hands what goes on in the midnight shifts. I don’t find this worth endless argument but I do say this: the lives of the people are MUCH more important than these cows. I don’t wanna get deep into this but I think that maybe it would do some people good if they had open eyes to the situation.

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      • That’s the reality of Canadian law: abuse an animal, be it a dog or a cat or a cow or a pigeon, and you can be held criminally responsible. While the Kooymans may not have been aware of what was happening on the midnight shift, it’s still their duty to ensure proper treatment of the animals they own by the people they employ, regardless of how large their operation is. And yes, I agree that the lives of people are more important than animals, but we need to remember that having dominion over the animals on this earth still requires us to treat them with respect and compassion. Pets or farm animals or wildlife, they’re all God’s creatures. I’m sure we could continue this conversation long into the night, and I appreciate your viewpoint too, Megs, but this is something I really feel needs to be dealt with. Consumers must know that animal welfare is paramount on Canadian farms, and showing them that abuse will not be tolerated will alleviate their concerns.

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  2. Mike K says:

    but…shooting them in the head with a bolt gun that may not actual work effectively it OK?

    Slitting their throats while they’re still alive is OK?

    Julaine, I think you should take a walk-through and see how your lovely cattle are treated on their last days. You might then consider keeping them forever instead of 10 years (really, that long?) on your farm.

    Let’s open the slaughterhouses to the public, let’s have tours, complete transparency where our food comes from.

    We are not a society that is protein or calcium deficient, we don’t need the flesh of dead animals, or that species breast milk — you ween the animal off it, our bodies naturally stop producing lactase because we don’t need our mother’s-milk.

    We are society of glut.
    Look around, how many obese & morbidly obese people do you see? How many people do you know who’ve had a heart-attack/stroke?
    How many people have you *ever* heard of that are protein deficient?

    There is no protein deficiency.
    More marketing from milk & beef boards, baffle-them-with-bullshit — the fact is we need *most* of our calories from good carbohydrates, and very little from protein. Full-stop.

    And those that are calcium deficient, how many regularly drink milk and/or milk products? probably all of them.

    If we could not easily access carbs, fat & protein then it makes sense to have a cow on the family homestead and drink it’s milk.
    However, society and technology have evolved over the last few hundred years including hot-house production, refrigeration and transportation that give us access to vegetables that may not grow in our immediate neighbourhood; we have access to *real* food all year, am I advocating buying fruit & veg that is out-of-season and out-of-country? no, but when you want something other than root-veg & legumes in the winter, you have it.

    By drinking milk, you have blood on your hands as you are indirectly slaughtering these animals.

    Mike

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  3. Jan says:

    Nice blog posts Julaine.

    I know those behaviours are not typical of our dairy farms, but what scares me is that it was happening in the first place – and that it was only brought to attention because of undercover video by an animal advocacy organization.

    How did this happen? They did seem to be following the industry standard inspections. I worry that if it was not for the undercover video the practices on that farm, or others, would have continued.

    Do you think dairy farms would benefit from outside inspections or video surveillance – for the midnight shifts?

    How will the code of practice for care of dairy cows be enforced?

    Thank you

    PS – beautiful photos of your farm!

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    • Hi Jan. I understand your concerns. They have worried me also and this is why I’m so pleased to see the new animal welfare segment of our national program being rolled out now. Inspections have just begun on BC dairy farms; unfortunately there was no such system designed to inspect for abuse before now.

      Yes, I do think that unsupervised milking shifts should have video surveillance. We are always present for milking on our farm (well, besides our few and far between days away from the farm) but we’ve talked about installing cameras just the same to keep tabs on the cows if we are away. I think it’s a great tool to ensure cows are always receiving proper treatment.

      The new Code will be enforced by on-farm inspections – both scheduled and complaint or risk driven. We just had our first animal welfare inspection. The independent verification officer grilled us on our standard operating procedures as they apply to animal welfare then walked our barns and inspected our cows for obvious issues. As the program fully rolls out across Canada (BC was first, ahead of the national schedule), the visual inspection of the cows will be more involved.

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