The international animal-welfare organization PETA has sent a letter to the provincial and federal agricultural ministers, calling for Cedar Valley Farms in Abbotsford to be shut down.
A press release from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said it sent the letter on Monday (Nov. 8) to B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham and her federal counterpart Marie-Claude Bibeau in response to allegations of animal abuse at the organic dairy farm.
Meanwhile, the Vanderwal family – which owns and operates Cedar Valley Farms – released a written statement Tuesday (Nov. 9) to the Abbotsford News.
“We are very saddened by recent events and are in immediate action to get to the bottom of any activities that differ from our animal care commitments,” they said. “We are working to address all the assessment/follow-up to ensure our farm is a place where our animals experience safety and comfort.”
The statement said the farm’s protocols require that all employees undergo animal-welfare training and sign a document outlining their commitment before they begin working on the farm.
“Staff on our farms are our responsibility for continuous training and oversight, and if we discover that animals are not treated with dignity and care in all stages of their life, it is on us to correct these wrongs.”
The family said they are being “open and transparent” with the agencies involved in investigating the animal-cruelty allegations “to get clarity on the facts of the case.”
Cedar Valley Farms had its licence suspended by the B.C. Milk Marketing Board in late October based on information provided by the BC SPCA and a subsequent inspection of the farm.
A video of the alleged abuse was sent anonymously to the national animal-welfare group Animal Justice, turned over to the BC SPCA and posted on the Animal Justice website.
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk condemned the behaviour captured in the video, saying workers are shown beating cows with canes and wrenches, among other abuse.
“It doesn’t get much worse than this, as cows were beaten, struggling to stand, and crying out for their calves at Cedar Valley Farms,” she said.
“Suspending this operation’s licence is a first step, but we’re calling on provincial and federal officials to ensure that these abusers never go back to business.”
Newkirk said the video footage also shows cows emaciated and limping in pain, workers repeatedly beating cows in the face and spraying them with high-pressure hoses, a worker kicking a mother cow to keep her away from her newborn calf who had been tossed into a wheelbarrow, and workers repeatedly shooting cows in the head and leaving them to die slowly.
Newkirk said one of Cedar Valley Farms’ owners, Dr. Rich Vanderwal, was also the veterinarian overseeing Chilliwack Cattle Sales, where undercover video footage showed workers whipping, punching, kicking, and beating cows. The company and one director pleaded guilty to abusing their cattle and were handed a total of $300,000 in fines in December 2016.
Newkirk says one of the former workers from Chilliwack Cattle Sales was shown working in the Cedar Valley Farms video.