British Columbia

Chicken cruelty allegations under investigation by B.C. SPCA

The B.C. SPCA says it is investigating allegations of animal mistreatment raised by an activist who claims to have recorded undercover video at multiple B.C. chicken farms in April.

WARNING: Story contains graphic images

A frame capture from a video released by PETA appears to show a hen half-buried in manure. (PETA)

The B.C. SPCA says it is investigating allegations of animal mistreatment raised by an activist who claims to have recorded undercover video at multiple B.C. chicken farms in April.

The video, released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and narrated by actor Kat Graham, appears to show hens half-buried in manure, caged hens enclosed with dead hens and various medical issues.

CBC News can't independently verify where the video was recorded.

"Obviously, the footage and depicting some of the animals up to their necks in manure pits is extremely concerning," said Marcie Moriarty, B.C. SPCA chief prevention and enforcement officer.

"That animal suffered greatly, and we don't know the extent of time which the animal was left to suffer like that — and really, no animal should have to go through that," she said.

Moriarty said the organization didn't have to rely on the video to carry out its investigation, as some of the actual animals were provided.

"There's absolutely evidence to support at least some instances where the animals met the definition of distress under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act," she alleged.

The video released by PETA, allegedly recorded undercover by an independent activist, appears to show multiple dead chickens left inside cages alongside live chickens. (PETA)

Investigation underway, says marketing board

PETA claims the video was recorded at various Abbotsford farms, including Jaedel Enterprises. CBC News tried to contact Jaedel, but was redirected to the executive director of the B.C. Egg Marketing Board, Katie Lowe, who clarified that the board doesn't speak on behalf of the farm.

Another attempt to speak with someone from Jaedel Enterprises was met another redirection to Lowe and then an abruptly hung-up phone.

Lowe describes the B.C. Egg Marketing Board as a regulator, and said it's carrying out an investigation into the farms that PETA claims are depicted in the video.

"The images that are in the video are not representative of the industry and will not be tolerated. We have a zero tolerance policy on the mistreatment of animals," she said.

"At this point, while we're undergoing an investigation, those eggs aren't going to the food chain," said Lowe.

"If there is a situation where animals are in distress, the producer, basically, has 48 hours to correct the problem or we can pull his licence, which means he cannot produce table eggs in B.C."

Lowe said the investigation began on Friday but she couldn't share any details.

Moriarty said the B.C. SPCA's investigation isn't complete, but she said in all likelihood the organization will recommend charges.

Charges not laid in earlier case

Referring to a previous investigation, Moriarty said charges the B.C. SPCA recommended to Crown counsel last November against poultry service provider Elite Farm Services still haven't been laid.

In that case, another activist video showed workers throwing, hitting, running over and simulating sexual acts with chickens. One worker allegedly tried to rip a live chicken in half with his hands. 

Elite Farm Services fired several workers after the video surfaced last year, saying at the time the company was "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."

"It is unfortunate that we haven't heard a response yet," said Moriarty of the lack of charges.

A spokesperson with the B.C. Prosecution Service said a decision about the case hasn't been made, and the file is currently under charge assessment.

Elite said last year that it would begin outfitting workers with body cameras to address alleged animal cruelty issues, but Lowe explained on Tuesday that the privacy commissioner shut that plan down.

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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker