Montreal-based Saputo yesterday announced it is implementing a new animal welfare policy across its operations in Canada, the US, Australia and Argentina.
Its new "progressive" policy - the development of which was headed by Dr Warren Skippon, Saputo's new director of animal welfare - includes a "zero tolerance" approach to acts of animal cruelty.
Discussing the move, Lino Saputo, CEO, Saputo, said "will stop taking milk" from any farm where there is "evidence of animal cruelty."
Saputo refused to accept milk from Chilliwack Cattle Company in British Columbia in June 2014 after evidence emerged of "sadistic animal abuse" at the farm.
Undercover footage showed workers at Chilliwack "kicking, punching, beating, and hitting cows in the face and body with chains, canes, metal pipes, and rakes."
The flow of milk from Chilliwack restarted a few days later when Saputo was satisfied "sufficiently adequate animal welfare practices" had been implemented.
"Elimination of tail docking"
Under the new policy, Saputo will also work towards the "elimination of tail docking" - the practice of removing part of the tail - and intends to provide resources to ensure a "minimum industry standard for pain control" when dehorning and disbudding cattle.
Additional resources will also be provided to two North American universities that specialize in dairy animal handling and welfare - the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.
"Through these initiatives, Saputo reinforces its commitment to bringing industry leaders and dairy farmers together to improve animal care," Saputo said in a statement.
MFA, which uncovered the abuse at Chilliwack, praised Saputo "for working toward ending some of the cruellest practices in its global dairy supply chain."
"It's heartening to see Saputo step up to the place and utilize its power and influence within the dairy industry to improve the lives of animals," it said in a statement. "We hope other dairy corporations will quickly follow suit."
"With Saputo's announcement, it's never been clearer that the days are numbered for dairy factory farms that beat and drag cows, and mutilate them without painkillers. It's now time for Dean Foods, Land O'Lakes and other mega dairy companies to stop dragging their feet and implement meaningful animal welfare standards of their own," it added.