For the first time in Canadian history, three former dairy workers were sentenced to jail for malicious animal abuse after an undercover investigation by an animal protection organization. Earlier today, Jamie Visser, Chris Vandyke, and Travis Keefer were each sentenced to serve jail time for violating the British Columbia Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Wildlife Act by the Honourable Justice Gary Cohen of the Chilliwack Law Court. Visser and Vandyke were each sentenced to serve 60 days in jail, and they are prohibited from having custody or control of any animal for three years. Keefer was sentenced to seven days in jail, and he is prohibited from having custody or control of any animal for a year. Their jail time begins today.
Today’s landmark sentences followed convictions stemming from a Mercy For Animals undercover investigation at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, the largest dairy factory farm in Canada. Video footage shows the three defendants viciously beating and sadistically torturing animals. The defendants pleaded guilty to a total of 18 counts of animal cruelty and three counts of molesting a bird.
Watch the footage that led to these convictions here:
These sentences mark the first time workers at a Canadian factory farm have been jailed for animal cruelty as a result of hidden-camera footage obtained by an animal protection organization. Last December, in another historic victory, Chilliwack Cattle Sales and its owner Wesley Kooyman were convicted of animal cruelty and ordered to pay fines totaling almost $350,000. Four workers were also charged. Their cases are set for trial later this month.
At the time of the investigation, Chilliwack Cattle Sales was a major supplier to Saputo, the largest dairy processor in Canada. After discussions with MFA, Saputo adopted a new animal welfare policy for its global dairy supply chain that requires zero tolerance for malicious animal cruelty; elimination of painful tail docking; administration of pain control when dehorning cattle; and low-energy animal handling to reduce stress, especially for non-ambulatory cows.
The investigation also prompted British Columbia’s agricultural minister, Norm Letnick, to amend the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to incorporate the Dairy Code of Practice. The Dairy Code of Practice outlines minimum guidelines concerning the treatment and welfare of cows on Canada’s dairies. MFA is calling on all provinces, including British Columbia, to give the Dairy Code of Practice the force of law in their provincial animal cruelty legislation. Giving the code the force of law will require the dairy industry to follow basic minimum standards for animal welfare.
The historic sentences issued today should send a strong message that animal abuse, which runs rampant in the dairy industry, will not be tolerated. Ultimately, the best thing that we can do to protect cows and all animals from needless suffering and violence is to choose a healthy and humane vegan diet. Click here for ideas on how to go dairy-free!