Egg farm decommissioned after disturbing video prompts investigation
Published Thursday, July 12, 2018 5:58PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2018 7:12PM PDT
A farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley can no longer be used for egg production after CTV News aired disturbing video activists say was captured inside.
The BC Egg Marketing Board said Thursday that the hens in an Abbotsford, B.C. facility featured in videos published by CTV and PETA will be removed and relocated. The farm itself has been decommissioned, and the barns cannot be used for egg laying.
"What we found is that those facilities are no longer meeting with the 2017 codes of practice, so they're no longer suitable," BC Egg Marketing Board spokesperson Katie Lowe said.
She added that all eggs from the farm were removed from market on June 21.
The board's decision followed an investigation sparked by videos taken in April and made public the week of June 25.
The clips captured by activists showed dead and live birds living in close quarters, and many were buried up to their necks in manure. Those behind the videos said they visited three barns in Abbotsford, one of which was identified as a farm called Jaedel Enterprises.
At the time, the BC SPCA confirmed it was investigating Jaedel.
This week, a representative for the marketing board said it launched its own investigation immediately, which included an animal care audit completed by an Egg Farmers of Canada inspector and a third-party auditor. An investigative team of senior staff, peers and veterinarians also paid a visit to the facilities featured in the videos to check on the hens' health.
Investigators looked at the chickens' feathers and overall cleanliness, examined sick or injured birds and looked for any that were dead or dying. They looked at the conditions of the cages, access to food and drink, barn ventilation and temperature and the manure removal system. They also examined the air quality and gathered information on the farms' management practices.
All three farms were examined, but independent analysis found hens were not at risk, and in fact were in good health, at two of the three.
The third, which CTV has confirmed is Jaedel, did not uphold BC Egg's standards, the board said.
"We are extremely disappointed," the board said in a statement.
"Our industry has a zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of animals, and strict policies and procedures that must be followed in order to be an egg farmer in this country."
However, the board said it is confident in its ability to act quickly and decisively in animals' best interest.
When asked how the issues with the farm were missed in previous inspections, which are conducted throughout the year, Lowe said BC Egg is looking into what happened.
"We'll get down to the bottom of it. Regardless, we acted immediately."
But activist Jeff Rigear, one of the people behind the videos, called the response from the industry predictable.
"It's a publicity thing… It's reinforcing my confidence in their inability to regulate themselves," he told CTV News Thursday.
"I think that farmers generally speaking would never go out of their way to intentionally hurt an animal. The reason animals are suffering so immensely is because it costs money to treat them better."
Panel examines PETA's edited version of the video
In addition to the auditing process, BC Egg and Egg Farmers of Canada asked the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity to put together an independent expert panel to examine the edited version of the original video which was published by PETA. The original video was not shot by PETA, but was provided to PETA by the animal activists who were involved.
A report from the panel of four veterinarians said the content in the videos was subject for concern.
"The image of a decomposed bird in the cage is unacceptable and that facility should be inspected once identified," one panel member wrote in their conclusion.
Most said that what was captured on camera was not reflective of most barns they've been in, and the set-up was an older style that Canadian egg farmers are transitioning away from.
"However, even old technology barns can provide good animal welfare if more attentively managed," a panel member wrote.
Panelists wrote that the deep manure pit was not uncommon, as it doubles as a storage space. The manure is used as a fertilizer for fields in the spring. Ventilation for barns using this system should be designed so ammonia and other gasses are expelled and don't reach the bird.
The panel also doubted some claims made in an edited, narrated version of the video which was posted by PETA, including that there were hundreds of birds loose in the manure area.
They wrote that they'd need to see more of the video to have their questions answered.
"In conclusion, all egg farmers in Canada are expected to follow the standards set forth in the Canadian Codes of Practice for Laying Hens," a panelist wrote.
"If producers are found to not be adhering to the standards I would expect industry to intervene and work on correctional actions along with providing further education to the producer.