The company whose B.C. employees were allegedly shown abusing chickens in a disturbing video has fired five workers, including at least one supervisor.
"We are sickened with the footage and want to ensure all our suppliers and producers that this is not reflective of who we are, our fundamental beliefs or behaviours we accept from our employees," reads a statement from Elite Farm Services president Dwayne Dueck.
Mercy for Animals, the organization behind the hidden camera video, captured multiple instances of abuse at Greater Vancouver factory chicken farms staffed by Elite Farm Services chicken catchers.
The video shows workers throwing, hitting, running over and simulating sexual acts with chickens. One worker tries to rip a live chicken in half with his hands.
Segments of the video show a supervisor watching as abuse takes place.
Mercy for Animals managing director Krista Hiddema called the firing of the workers by Elite Farms "too little too late."
"This press release is nothing but disingenuous. Elite Farm Services supervisors were not only witnessing the abuse, they participated in the abuse. In addition to that, the Lilydale supervisors witnessed this abuse," Hiddema said.
"This is not a matter of a few workers, this is a culture of cruelty that has been permitted for far too long at Elite Farms and across the poultry industry."
Mercy for Animals is demanding the workers, the supervisors and both Elite Farms and Lilydale all face prosecution. The organization has filed complaints with the RCMP, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the BC SPCA.
The animal advocacy group is also calling upon Loblaws and its president Galen Weston "to commit to a meaningful animal welfare policy."
Mercy for Animals said it traced chicken from the Port Coquitlam Lilydale slaughterhouse to a number of Loblaws and Loblaws-owned grocery stores, although it is likely other stores not identified by the group also sold the chicken.
"Loblaws of course is the largest grocer in the country," said Hiddema. "Galen Weston has the obligation to take a leadership role for all grocers in Canada to stand up to ensure that this type of abuse cannot be found in his supply chain."
In response, Loblaws issued a statement that read, in part: "We have zero tolerance for any animal abuse and have made it very clear to the supplier that this behaviour has absolutely no place in our food supply chain."
Hiddema said the Mercy for Animals volunteer who shot the video worked for Elite Farm Services as a chicken catcher at 12 different locations between May 10 and June 9.
She said he reported the abuse to his direct supervisor and to a Lilydale supervisor but no action was ever taken.