In a statement issued earlier this week, Quebec-based Saputo said it will not accept milk from the British Colombia Milk Marking Board, which is supplied by Chilliwack Cattle Company, until it is “fully satisfied that strict animal welfare practices are in place.”
Saputo clarified its position regarding Chilliwack following pressure from Mercy for Animals Canada, which uncovered what it called "sadistic animal abuse" during an investigation into practices at the farm.
Undercover footage gathered by the animal rights group showed workers "kicking, punching, bearing, and hitting cows in the face and body with chains, canes, metal pipes, and rakes." On the back of its investigation, Mercy for Animals Canada published a petition calling on Saputo CEO Lino Saputo to take "immediate action to prevent further abuse by its suppliers."
“Until Saputo decides to do the right thing, I will be taking my business elsewhere," stated the petition, which to date has more than 104,000 signatures.
"Catalyst for change"
Responding to the outcry, Saputo announced "it is not accepting milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales and is leading a push for strict reforms."
The company said it “has used its position as Canada’s largest milk processor to ensure the situation is being addressed and that such reprehensible behavior…does not occur in the future.”
It has reached out the to British Colombia Minister of Agriculture, the British Colombia Dairy Association, the British Colombia Dairy Council, and the British Colombia Farm Industry Review Board, and supports recommendations that the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle be incorporated into regional law.
"Saputo has taken the lead in bringing industry stakeholders together behind a common goal: to ensure immediate consequences for those involved, and enforceable legal measures to prevent future abuse," Saputo's statement continued.
“The abuse brought to light in this case should be viewed as a catalyst for change to ensure the proper treatment of dairy cattle through appropriate, enforceable and legal measures including penalties for offenders.”
Despite successfully encouraging Saputo to take a stand, Mercy for Animals Canada slammed the Canadian dairy for its "reactive" response.
"While we commend Saputo for finally responding to the rampant criminal animal cruelty...it's not enough," said a statement posted on the Mercy for Animals Canada website.
"If Saputo is serious about preventing cruelty to animals, it must be proactive, not reactive, in addressing animal welfare issues."
"This latest reactionary move from Saputo illustrates the bigger problem with Canada's factory farming industry: the government does not regulate or oversee farming conditions, which leads to rampant unchecked animal abuse and neglect," its statement added.