The BC SPCA says it needs more help from the province to curb the rise in abuse being found at slaughterhouses in the province.
Most recently, the animal welfare organization launched an investigation after behind-the-scenes video footage of a Pitt Meadows slaughterhouse was released.
The hidden-camera footage of Meadow Valley Meats came from a source that has not been publicly identified. That footage was originally sent to Animal Justice, an organization run by lawyers and advocates who “fight for stronger legal protection for animals.”
Kelly Newby, a Kelowna-based lawyer and member of Animal Justice Canada said that the group sent the footage to B.C.’s ministry of agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the BC SPCA.
“It shows devastating animal cruelty… it goes beyond handling,” said Newby.
This is the latest high-profile incident of alleged abuse in a B.C. slaughterhouse.
Despite being legal, Meat the Victims and Kelowna-based advocate Amy Soranno believe that the “routine suffering and violence” that takes place in animal agriculture is unjust.
Soranno has a criminal record for breaking into the Excelsior hog farm with Meat the Victims, where they recorded video footage of what they allege is animal abuse.
Roy Sasano, one of the Excelsior four activists, said that Meat the Victims felt that they had to take action. He said that the group had previously contacted the BC SPCA about claims of animal abuse on the hog farm, but no changes were made.
The BCSPCA explained that for the Excelsior case, an investigation did take place. However, the only evidence of cruelty presented to them was a video that was obtained illegally, which is inadmissible in court.
In an interview with Black Press Media, BC SPCA’s Eileen Drever said that while the BC SPCA investigates every case that is reported to them, they are unable to press charges.
The BC SPCA can only recommend charges to Crown prosecutors in cases where investigators have determined abuse, but many cases are not black and white, particularly when it comes to farm animals. She explained that there is a lack of formal regulation within the animal agriculture industry, which is why the BC SPCA is advocating for specific guidelines to be implemented and enforced.
“These farms are not regulated… The BC SPCA is focusing our efforts to have the provincial government establish a proactive and independent regulatory framework that can ensure that these situations don’t take place,” she said.
The BC SPCA would like to see updates in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which states that certain standard practices that cause animals distress are not legally considered an offence if they are considered to be ‘generally accepted,’ in the industry.
For example, under the Criminal Code of Canada it is illegal to willfully cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal, to fail to provide reasonable care to an animal causing suffering, and to willfully neglect or fail to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care.
However, in agriculture, some of these situations are regular occurrences and not considered illegal in a court of law, which is why the BC SPCA wants the code to be updated. She explained developing guidelines with the requirements of meat production in mind is required to properly regulate the industry.
“We really need to see the government step up here,” said Drever.
For years the BC SPCA has been advocating for a third-party inspection system and regulations that can be legally enforced on commercial farms to provide transparency within the industry.
Laws about animals raised for food and slaughter are laid out in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. This regulation requires that animals used for food be handled so that they do not experience “avoidable distress or avoidable pain.” The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is in charge of enforcing this often subjective area of the regulation.
Drever also said that the BC SPCA is advocating for mandatory live-streaming cameras in all livestock operations and slaughterhouses.
Newby said that two of the directors of Meadow Valley Meats are linked to Chilliwack Cattle Sales, which was involved in one of the largest animal cruelty cases in Canadian history.
Eight employees of Chilliwack Cattle Sales, were fired in June 2014 and the owners were fined $300,000 after a video showed them beating cows with sticks, chains and rakes surfaced.
Black Press Media has contacted Meadow Valley Meats for comment.