The B.C. SPCA is investigating what it calls "absolutely sickening" alleged animal abuse by a chicken-catching service in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.

"[It's] some of the worst — and I don't say that lightly this time — animal cruelty and abuse that I've seen in some time," said B.C. SPCA spokesperson Marcie Moriarty.

The video, shot by the non-profit animal advocacy group Mercy For Animals, allegedly shows multiple workers throwing and hitting the birds, simulating sexual acts with them and letting some birds slowly die on the ground after their injuries.

She said the workers were hired to round up chickens for transport to a slaughter plant in Port Coquitlam owned by Lilydale, a poultry company and subsidiary of Sofina Foods Inc.

"The video was disturbing for what it portrayed in the actions of the individuals involved, but also the inaction that is seen on the part of individuals who were there ... but did nothing to stop them," said Moriarty.

Recommending multiple charges

Investigators with the B.C. SPCA are now working on a report that will be forwarded to Crown counsel. Moriarty said they will be recommending multiple charges of animal cruelty under both the Criminal Code and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

She said if the individuals are convicted they face a fine up to $75,000, a maximum five-year prison sentence and a possible ban for life from owning or being around animals.

The people shown in the video need to be held accountable for their actions, Moriarty said.

"The video includes some of the most brutal and sadistic acts of violence against animals I have ever seen," she said. "It is extremely difficult to watch."

Sofina: 'We are taking immediate steps'

In a statement, Sofina said the footage was taken at one of the suppliers responsible for catching birds for their B.C. facilities, and said they were "appalled and extremely shocked.

"We are taking immediate steps with our supplier to initiate a comprehensive investigation of the situation and have engaged internal and external expertise to help us determine proper course of action in line with our animal care commitment and expectations," they said, adding that they would "fully collaborate" with all authorities undertaking an investigation. 

"Sofina Foods Inc. has already been in touch with the owner of the supplier company and requested that all of the supplier's employees involved in the abusive behaviours be dismissed immediately."  

Warning: the following video, shot by Animals for Mercy, contains violence that may be disturbing for some viewers. 

With files from Deb Goble and The Canadian Press