British Columbia

Mercy for Animals accusations leads B.C. to adopt national dairy cow guidelines

The B.C. government is adopting the national code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle in light of accusations of cruelty at a dairy farm in Chilliwack.

Animal welfare activists warn the change doesn't go far enough

B.C. is the third province to adopt national guidelines on dairy cattle care.

The B.C. government is adopting the national code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle in light of accusations of cruelty at a dairy farm in Chilliwack.

Last June Canada's largest dairy farm, Chilliwack Cattle Sales, fired eight employees after a disturbing undercover video surfaced showing the workers physically abusing cows.

The undercover video from the non-profit group Mercy for Animals Canada was shot by a former employee of the farm and showed dairy cows being whipped and beaten with chains and canes, as well as punched and kicked.

"As a society, we always need to be working together to ensure all animals in British Columbia are treated with proper care and respect," said Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.

Among the abuses captured in the undercover video is a worker using a tractor to drag a dairy cow by its neck, while two other employees hit the animal repeatedly. (Mercy for Animals Canada)

"A conversation on how we could work better with the B.C. SPCA and the provincial dairy industry turned into action."

Penalties are now in place for anyone convicted of causing distress to an animal. The maximum penalty is $75,000 and up to 24 months imprisonment — "the toughest in Canada," according to the minister.

Adoption of code praised

B.C. is the third province after Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI to adopt the national code. 

The B.C. SPCA and the B.C. Dairy Association said it was glad to hear the announcement .

"This is pretty much a dream after a year to see this sort of change," said Marcie Moriarty, the general manager of cruelty investigations for the B.C. SPCA. 

"We feel that this regulation will go a long way to ensure a standard of care."

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced that the province will adopt the national code of practice for the care of dairy cows. (CBC)

However, Mercy For Animals says the action doesn't go far enough if no one is actually policing the farms and doing random checks on the welfare of dairy cows.

"Minister Letnick's announcement is an important step forward in deterring this horrific cruelty on dairy farms," said Nathan Runkle, Mercy For Animals' president in a press release. "Now we must work toward providing greater governmental oversight of Canadian dairy factory farms to ensure that these laws are actually followed and enforced."

Charges were recommended in last year's incident but 13 months after the fact, Crown counsel says they're still under review.

There are just under 500 licensed dairy producers in B.C. with the majority of the operations located in the Fraser Valley. 

With files from Belle Puri


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