The group that released an undercover video in 2014 showing the violent abuse of cows on one of Canada's largest dairy farms say "justice has finally been served" now that 20 counts of animal cruelty have been laid in the investigation into Chilliwack Cattle Sales and seven of its employees.

"These charges are a landmark in Canada, so quite frankly it feels really good," said Krista Hiddema, the managing director for Mercy for Animals Canada 

"We feel that justice has finally been served in this case, albeit that it took a little longer than we would've liked.

The undercover video released in June 2014  — shot by a former employee of the farm — shows dairy cows being whipped and beaten with chains, canes and rakes, as well as punched and kicked.

Sentences range up to 2 years in jail

Days after the video emerged the B.C. SPCA recommended charges against the employees identified in the video.

The B.C. SPCA said Tuesday that seven company employees are facing various charges, including causing distress to an animal and failing to care and protect an animal from distress.

Sixteen of the 20 charges are under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA) for various acts of cruelty against the farm's dairy cows, while four of the counts are under the Wildlife Act for "molesting a pigeon."

Maximum sentences for each count under the PCAA is a fine of up to $75,000, up to two years in jail and a possible lifetime ban on owning animals.

The Criminal Justice Branch said the charge assessment process took as long as it did because of the number of people accused, the complexity in assessing the evidence, and the nature of the initial investigation.

"We believe that this is an absolutely tremendous first step," said Hiddema, who said her organization has done nine of these undercover investigations across Canada.

Undercover employees 'face tremendous risks'

"I see this type of video pretty regularly, but I will tell you in this case it was some of the worst cruelty I have ever seen," she said.

"The gratuitous violence that was inflicted on these gentle creatures was truly frightening."

Hiddema said that Mercy for Animals employees apply for jobs at factory farms and slaughterhouses on a completely random basis to see how the animals are treated there.

"They face tremendous risks, but what they do is they believe it is so critical to be the eyes and ears of the Canadian public so that Canadians can finally become educated as to what happens behind the closed doors of these factory farms."

Hiddema said that laws need to be strengthened in B.C. and across the country to proactively prevent this type of cruelty from happening.

None of the charges have been proven in court.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Mercy for Animals thrilled charges have been laid against Chilliwack dairy farm