Six employees fired in wake of 'sadistic' chicken abuse at B.C. farms
Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:06AM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, June 13, 2017 7:43PM PDT
Warning: This story contains details some may find disturbing
The farm labour company at the centre of shocking chicken abuse allegations says it is "sickened" with the video footage of chicken abuse on several farms, and it has fired several employees.
Elite Farm Services Ltd., based in Chilliwack, B.C., has terminated the employment of the crew supervisor as well as five employees for not adhering to its "strict" animal care guidelines.
“We are sickened with the footage and want to ensure all our suppliers and producers that this is not reflective of who we are, our fundamental beliefs or behavior we accept from our employees,” Elite president Dwayne Dueck said in a statement.
"We do not condone or tolerate animal abuse."
The footage, shot by a Mercy for Animals whistleblower working undercover at several B.C. farms, shows "egregious" abuse of chickens allegedly handled by Elite employees.
Mercy for Animals says the workers were caught on camera in "sadistic" acts against the animals, including ripping legs off of live animals, slamming chickens against crates, punching birds, and even mimicking sex acts with the birds.
Birds are run over by workers driving forklifts, all while management can be seen standing nearby, said Krista Hiddema, vice president at Mercy for Animals.
"Imagine having your limbs ripped off your body and then being thrown to the ground –all while alive and fully conscious. That's the reality," Hiddema told reporters.
"Chickens are every bit as capable of feeling and suffering as our beloved dogs and cats at home."
This is the 12th undercover expose released by Mercy for Animals, and Hiddema says by far it is the most horrific and sadistic.
The incidents are being investigated by both the B.C. SPCA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A complaint has also been filed with the RCMP.
Veteran BC SPCA cruelty investigator Marcie Moriarty calls it some of the worst behaviour she's ever seen in Canada’s food industry.
Mercy for Animals says the video is only a glimpse of the horrors that exist on Canadian factory farms, and is demanding the workers and supervisors are prosecuted to the fullest extent of Canada's criminal code.
Hiddema calls the firings "too little, too late," saying that management were aware of the "abuse happening every day" on the roughly 12 dozens farms it captured footage at.
"As a civilized society it is our moral obligation to prevent cruelty to animals, including chickens and other farm animals. We believe the level of abuse we have seen rises above to a criminal level," she said.
The whistleblower who filmed the abuse resigned from employment after Mercy for Animals concluded management and Lilydale would not take action on their own.
The undercover operative reported the abuse to supervisors on multiple occasions, but no action was taken, according to the animal welfare group.
The supervisor who was fired after the release of Mercy for Animals' video told CTV News that management was at least partially aware of the way chickens were being treated.
"Some of the stuff, yes. Because I reported it," said the supervisor, who agreed to speak anonymously.
The individual reached out to CTV News after he and the other employees were fired Tuesday.
Hiddema said the whistleblower is very happy Canadians are outraged by the footage, and is looking forward to working with law enforcement to secure criminal charges.
Elite, a licensed farm labour contractor hired by Sofina Foods Inc., sent its chicken-catching crew to various broiler chicken farms across the province to load chickens into crates and onto transport trucks. The chickens were then transported to a Lilydale slaughter plant in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
The company says it is committed to taking immediate corrective action and is conducting an internal audit to review all practices, guidelines and training. Elite is also establishing an advisory committee to enhance its animal care.
"Elite is committed to becoming an industry leader in animal welfare and safety to prevent this type of a tragedy from happening again," Dueck said.
The company works directly for Sofina Foods Inc., which sells much of its chicken under the Lilydale brand in major grocery stores including Safeway and Loblaws.
Mercy for Animals is calling on Loblaws to ensure the welfare of animals in its supply chain, for the food bought by Canadian consumers.
In a statement, the grocery giant says it is investigating.
"We stand firmly behind the standards set by the National Farm Animal Care Council, the policies outlined by the Chicken Farmers of Canada, and our own commitment to animal welfare which is clearly articulated in our supplier code of conduct, and in our animal welfare principles," it said.
"We continue to work with industry partners and animal welfare experts to ensure standards and codes of practice are upheld so our customers can remain confident in the food they buy."
For more information on Mercy for Animals's probe, visit its website.