Langley poultry farmer weighs in on shocking animal abuse video

‘Know your farmers and know where your food comes from,’ stresses Central Park Farms’ owner

The owner of a Langley poultry farm is outraged, but not surprised, about the shocking abuse of chickens in Chilliwack.

In the wake of the undercover footage of employees throwing, kicking, stomping and tearing apart birds at Chilliwack chicken farms, five employees and one supervisor of the local farm labour company involved have been fired, according to the company’s president.

Kendall Ballantine of Central Park Farms said that while the footage may come as a surprise to many, to her it’s a “glaring reminder” of why she got into farming three years ago.

Located in South Langley, Central Park Farms “raises chickens, pigs, and cattle, but we specialize in non-GMO fed, free range meat chickens that are raised with pasture access and are non-medicated,” Ballantine pointed out.

The chicken-catching service involved in the video had been hired to round up chickens for transport to the Lilydale/Sofina Foods slaughter plant in Port Coquitlam, the SPCA said in a statement.

Mercy for Animals created a website, www.chickentorture.ca, where it posted the video of clips edited together, a petition to ask Loblaws to stop sourcing Lilydale Chicken, other allegations against Lilydale, and information on vegan alternatives to poultry.

Ballantine noted that the employees shown abusing the chickens were from a third-party independent company working at a variety of local, large-scale, commercial chicken farms.

“Sadly I’m not surprised by this,” she added.

“Animal welfare is not at the forefront of decision-making in these types of operations — the crew is there to get a job done and done fast. It makes me wonder how much training these employees get on proper handling and animal welfare, because I’d be surprised if they receive any at all.”

Farmers need to play an active roll in what’s happening on their farms, according to Ballentine: “I understand crews catch at night, but was there someone from the farm managing the crew? If they truly care about animal welfare they would have procedures and checks in place to make sure this isn’t happening on their farms. Based on this video this clearly isn’t an isolated event.”

She also believes the blame lies partly with the consumers.

“We can’t watch these videos be outraged and then forgot about it when the media stops reporting on it. If you’re outraged, good, then let’s all work towards stopping this. Find a farmer who is doing it right and support them,” Ballantine said. “Farmers are raising animals to the conditions we’re willing to support and pay for. We want cheap meat? Then I can guarantee we aren’t getting ethically raised meat.”

She said small farmers like herself don’t outsource functions on their farms.

“At our farm, we are our catching crew and we handle the transportation of our animals so I can say with certainty that this isn’t happening on our farm,” Ballantine said.

“We load our chicken, then drive the 35 minutes to the processing plant just before our early morning appointment, that way I can guarantee my animals are loaded and in transport for the least amount of time possible and so we can minimize stress for our animals.”

In the wake of this video’s release, Ballantine urges consumers to ask questions about those supplying the meat they feed their family.

“Know your farmers and know where your food comes from,” she urged. “It’s all about transparency, find someone who willing to open the doors to their farm whether it’s in real life or through sharing their day-to-day interaction with their animals on their social media accounts. There are a lot of wonderful farmers raising meat ethically in the Lower Mainland, so it’s important we seek them out and support them. Vote with your shopping dollars when it comes to how you want animals treated.”

‘Shocking and reprehensible’

Meanwhile, the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) issued a statement Tuesday calling the video “shocking and reprehensible,” adding that they have a third-party audited Animal Care Program that is enforced on every farm.

“If a farm is found not to be complying with the Animal Care Program standards, or is causing undue suffering to birds, the farmer is subject to penalties and the proper authorities will be contacted,” the statement said, in part.

And while Vanderspek of the BC Chicken Marketing Board said he makes no excuses for anyone, chicken farmers should not be the focus of ire. Day-old birds are delivered to the chicken farmers by the processors who are also responsible for hiring chicken catchers.

“The farmer is supposed to be onsite monitoring what is going on, it’s his farm and his birds,” he added. “But the farmer can’t be everywhere at once.”

“The images in this video are absolutely sickening and the individual employees and the companies involved need to be held accountable,” said Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer.

“The video includes some of the most brutal and sadistic acts of violence against animals I have ever seen.”

If convicted, the individuals and companies involved face a fine up to $75,000, a maximum five-year jail sentence and a possible lifetime ban on owning or being around animals.

– Files from Paul Henderson, Black Press

 

Free range meat chickens are raised with pasture access and are non-medicated at Central Park Farms, says the South Langley farm’s owner, Kendall Ballantine. Photo submitted

Free range meat chickens are raised with pasture access and are non-medicated at Central Park Farms, says the South Langley farm’s owner, Kendall Ballantine. Photo submitted