An investigation by the BC Milk Marketing Board of Cedar Valley Farms in Abbotsford has resulted in the reinstatement of the farm’s production licence with several conditions.
The licence was suspended October 27 following allegations that workers at the farm had abused animals, claims supported by video footage provided to the BC SPCA and subsequently made public by Animal Justice Canada on November 4.
“BC Milk has confirmed there were multiple violations of the Code of Practice at this farm,” the board said in a statement on November 12.
According to board chair Janice Comeau, an investigation by two independent vets who interviewed farm employees found that the farm’s owners – brothers Rich and Dave Vanderwal and their families – had all the right protocols in place but failed to ensure compliance. The lack of oversight allowed a culture of abuse towards the farm’s animals to develop.
“They have good procedures and good processes, but there was no oversight,” says BC Milk chair Janice Comeau.
“Management needs to step in and they need to be more involved in the day-to-day, they need to have better practices around hiring and training and supervising employees, and the conditions we put on the license is intended to achieve just that.”
These conditions include Cedar Valley hiring an independent farm manager chosen by BC Milk who will report directly to the board. The manager “will be tasked with overseeing that the management and employees at Cedar Valley Farms are executing the cultural change in animal care and handling practices required by BC Milk.”
BC Milk will also engage an independent vet to perform regular, unannounced inspections to ensure the welfare of the animals and that change is taking place.
All management and employees will be trained in cattle handling and animal welfare, and be required to sign a cattle care commitment that will be subject to verification and review.
“This licence is conditional, and if we don’t see the changes happening that we expected to see, then we’ll revisit our decision,” says Comeau.
An investigation of the farm by the BC SPCA that could lead to criminal charges is ongoing. BC SPCA was unable to provide an update on its work. BC Milk has offered its full cooperation to the BC SPCA, and says its findings could lead to the bard placing additional conditions on Cedar Valley’s licence.
Together with the BC Dairy Association. BC Milk is undertaking a full review of policies and procedures in place for the industry. This comes in advance of a review the National Farm Animal Care Council is launching next month of the national Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, which all dairy producers must adhere to.