A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.

Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Seven witnesses subpoenaed to testify in the Fraser Valley chicken abuse case were adjourned on Monday (Jan. 25) as the trial was delayed yet again.

Originally slated for a jury trial, Ontario-based Sofina Foods, Elite Farm Services Ltd., and Elite’s Dwayne Paul Dueck, re-elected to trial by judge alone.

Crown counsel and defence lawyers were in front of Justice Thomas Crabtree via Microsoft Teams on Monday (Jan. 25). Also on the phone line were seven witnesses scheduled to testify in the case, but all seven were told the matter would be adjourned to Feb. 16 in Abbotsford. Abbotsford’s new courthouse was scheduled to open Jan. 18, and includes three BC Supreme Court rooms.

READ MORE: New $152M courthouse in Abbotsford slated to open Jan. 18

READ MORE: Trial by jury for defendants in Chilliwack chicken catching abuse case

Among those on the list of witnesses was Trever Crowe who is associate dean of the college of agriculture and bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, according to the school’s website, and an expert on animal welfare and livestock transport.

“I recognize the inconvenience,” Justice Crabtree told Crowe who attended by phone. “We are still in pre-trial matters that have to be dealt with.”

The high-profile Fraser Valley chicken abuse case dates back to 2017, when a person with the California-based animal rights activist group Mercy For Animals (MFA) filmed undercover videos of chicken catching at locations from Surrey to Chilliwack.

The video showed employees ripping live birds apart, stomping and throwing chickens.

The three defendants originally faced 38 counts under the Health of Animal Regulations. There are allegations of abuse at farms in Langley, Abbotsford, Lindell Beach, Aldergrove, Chilliwack and Surrey.

The defendants had asked that the charges be dropped based on a number of factors. Crown and defence continued with arguments on Monday in what is listed as a pre-trial conference, but includes the discussion about dropping the charges.

If the trial goes ahead, it is scheduled to begin on Feb. 16, according to Crown counsel Jessica Lawn.

(*Editorial note: An earlier version of this story stated that Justice Crabtree had declined to issue a stay of proceedings but he has not yet made a decision. The Progress regrets the error.)

READ MORE: UPDATE: Defence in Fraser Valley chicken abuse cases asks BC Supreme Court to drop the charges


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