Former employees 'cringe' remembering time at company facing abuse allegations
Two former employees of a B.C. company under fire after allegations of animal abuse are speaking out in the wake of an advocacy group’s hidden camera video.
Both say they saw only slivers of the behaviour made public in the videos recorded by an undercover agent for Mercy for Animals posing as an employee – but when they saw the whole video, it was sickening.
“When I saw that I thought, what the heck. That made me cringe. I didn’t like it,” Gina DiMarco told CTV News on Thursday. DiMarco is an employee who says she'd worked at Elite Farm Services since May, but quit in disgust this week.
DiMarco was recorded in the background of at least one video, where employees appeared to simulate a sexual act with a chicken.
But she says she didn’t see a young man recorded ripping the legs off a chicken – until she saw it on the news.
“I don’t want to work for a company that has people who treat chickens like that,” she said.
She and others identified that young man as Levi Hedges, a 19-year-old who lives in Chilliwack. Reached by CTV News, Hedges said he had no comment until he talks to a lawyer.
Court records show that Hedges has an outstanding warrant on an uttering threats charge in Campbell River.
Another employee, Sierra Larocque, worked for Elite Farm Services for just one day last month, but told CTV News she had seen enough not to return.
“I know a few guys who were frustrated with the animals. They’d kick them. They got agitated with the animals, and I said, ‘That’s not super OK,’” she said.
Elite Farm Services didn’t comment Thursday on the specific allegations from the former employees.
The company has already fired several employees and vowed to improve practices.
It also sent a statement saying that they would implement a “video capture component to our standard operating procedures with the collection and handling of live animals.” http://bc.ctvnews.ca/staff-to-wear-body-cameras-after-video-shows-abuse-at-chicken-farms-1.3460055
President Dwayne Dueck said in the statement he expected the cameras would be in place in at most three weeks.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Liberal MP who has taken up the cause of animal welfare on farms, told reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa that he supported more cameras to ensure proper practices are followed.
“For factory farms in our country, where millions of animals go through these facilities every year, we don’t require video surveillance and I think that’s something provincial governments should be looking at,” he said.
B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick didn’t return calls from CTV News, and hasn’t spoken up since the video was released on Monday. Some communications staff have referred to the current Liberal government as a “caretaker” government while it awaits likely defeat in the legislature later this month as a reason why ministers have been less vocal on their portfolios.
However NDP MLA Lana Popham, who has been the agriculture critic for the party, said she hopes a future Green and NDP government can address some of the concerns.
“It’s horrific and it’s something you shouldn’t have to see take place. Sends consumers into a state of shock and you hope they don’t lose confidence in the food system,” she said.