Video footage that triggered an investigation of Cedar Valley Farms in Abbotsford two weeks ago has been released.
Toronto-based activist group Animal Justice Canada posted the footage with a call for greater regulation of livestock operations, including the installation of surveillance cameras on farms. It notes that organic farms are no better than conventional systems when it comes to animal welfare.
“Whether a farm is conventional or organic, animal suffering is systemic,” says Animal Justice Canada.
BC’s dairy industry has denounced the incidents depicted in the video, which include the caning of animals as well as kicking and suspension of animals from tractor buckets. Other footage includes what appears to be a botched effort to euthanize a down animal.
“The treatment of dairy cows shown in the video clearly violates the National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, which is mandatory for all dairy farms in BC,” says a statement from the BC Dairy Association. “Dairy farmers take this very seriously.”
However, next steps will be determined following investigations by the BC Milk Marketing Board, which has suspended the farm’s licence to ship, and the BC SPCA, which has indicated it will be recommending charges.
Cedar Valley’s certifying body, Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. has not commented on the matter. A revocation of the farm’s organic certification would depend on the outcome of the investigations.
Similarly, the College of Veterinarians of BC referenced the BC Veterinarians Act when asked if Dr. Rich Vanderwal, a co-owner of the farm, could face discipline. The act states that investigations may be launched on receipt of a complaint against a college member, “conviction for an offence relating to the care or treatment of animals” or “conduct unbecoming a registrant.”
The college declined comment on whether or not it is investigating Vanderwal.
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham says mandating surveillance cameras or stricter regulation of livestock operations will depend on discussions with industry and other stakeholders.
“Animal welfare is always of great concern to our government and we’re always moving forward with consultation with industry and stakeholders to see how we can better improve that,” she told Country Life in BC.
The incident will also test the province’s efforts to strengthen protections for livestock producers against trespassers. An amendment to the Trespass Act last year explicitly prohibited trespass in premises housing livestock.
Abbotsford Police Department confirms that it is investigating a break-in at the farm.