Delay in Dairy Cruelty Prosecution Sparks National Outcry

In June 2014, Canada’s largest dairy farm was exposed for shocking cruelty to animals. Footage secretly recorded by Mercy For Animals showed workers violently beating animals with their fists, boots, and even a rake. Many animals were shown with gruesome injuries and infections, and cows too sick to even stand were lifted by their necks with chains and tractors while workers screamed obscenities at them.

The BC SPCA, which enforces animal cruelty laws in the province, acted virtually immediately to raid the facility and recommend criminal charges. In BC, investigative bodies, including the police, customarily recommend charges while it is Crown prosecutors that ultimately lay them.

Weeks passed, and then months, and still no charges were filed by the Crown. A year later, the “anniversary” was marked with articles and interviews from Animal Justice and Vancouver Humane Society decrying the delay and calling for immediate action.

In December 2015, Vancouver Humane Society penned a letter to BC’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice urging action. The letter rightly points out that the delay raises Charter issues that could imperil the case, and says, “There would no doubt be considerable public outrage if the alleged perpetrators of these extreme acts of animal cruelty were not brought to justice.”

Now, a Canadian Press article is again making national headlines. In it, spokespeople for Vancouver Humane Society and Animal Justice explain that the delay suggests the Crown may not be taking the case as seriously as it ought to be.

We kill more than 700 million animals for food annually, making farmed animals by far the largest population of animals under human care (by contrast, there are about 15 million pets in Canada). However, these pigs, chickens, turkeys, and cows are kept largely in windowless warehouses on private property, entirely shielded from the scrutiny of law enforcement, which does not proactively inspect farms.

This case presented a unique opportunity for prosecutors to take a strong stand against farmed animal cruelty. Instead, although a file of evidence following a sophisticated investigation landed on prosecutors’ desks, so far law enforcement is failing farmed animals.

The crown prosecutor is quoted as saying a decision on charges may be forthcoming this week. Let’s hope it is, and that justice will finally be realized for these innocent animals.