Chilli­wack dairy farm work­ers jailed for an­i­mal abuse

Judge’s de­ci­sion will ‘set the tone’ for sim­i­lar cases in the fu­ture, de­fence lawyer says

The Province - - FRONT PAGE - GLENDA LUYMES gluymes@post­media.com twit­ter.com/glen­daluymes

CHILLI­WACK — Three men con­victed of abus­ing cat­tle at Canada’s largest dairy farm were hand­cuffed and led from court Thurs­day morn­ing af­ter a judge sen­tenced them to jail time in a “land­mark” de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to an­i­mal rights ac­tivists.

In April, Travis Keefer, Jamie Visser and Chris Vandyke pleaded guilty to caus­ing an­i­mals to be in dis­tress and per­mit­ting an­i­mals to be in dis­tress, in ad­di­tion to mo­lest­ing a pi­geon, af­ter they were dis­cov­ered mis­treat­ing cat­tle in a se­cretly recorded video re­leased by the non-profit group Mercy for An­i­mals Canada.

The video, which was taken when the men were em­ploy­ees of Chilli­wack Cat­tle Sales in the spring of 2014, showed dairy cows be­ing whipped and beaten with chains and canes, as well as be­ing punched and kicked.

Call­ing the vi­o­lence “dif­fi­cult to watch,” Judge Gary Co­hen sen­tenced Keefer to seven days in jail, while Visser and Vandyke re­ceived 60 days, to be served on week­ends so they can main­tain em­ploy­ment. The men were also banned from own­ing an­i­mals — for one year in Keefer’s case, and three years for the other men.

Co­hen said that while none of the men had a crim­i­nal record and no ev­i­dence was pre­sented to sug­gest they caused phys­i­cal in­juries to the cat­tle, the ex­am­ples of cru­elty dis­played in the video were “both nu­mer­ous and sig­nif­i­cant,” while the vi­o­lence was gra­tu­itous. In par­tic­u­lar, the judge pointed to two scenes, one in which em­ploy­ees placed a chain around a cow’s neck and then used a trac­tor to lift the an­i­mal, and an­other where they used a chain to whip a fallen cow.

Sev­eral sup­port­ers cried as the men were asked to stand to hear their sen­tences be­fore be­ing hand­cuffed and led away.

Out­side court, de­fence lawyer Craig Si­cotte said his clients were not happy about re­ceiv­ing jail time.

“The judge didn’t have any prior cases, re­ally, to give him a lot of guid­ance on some­thing like this, so he put a lot of thought into it, and he gave a sen­tence that ob­vi­ously my three clients aren’t thrilled with — they had to go to jail,” he said. “At the end of the day, this will set the tone for a lot of sen­tences like this.”

Mercy for An­i­mals Canada vice-pres­i­dent Krista Hid­dema said the sen­tence was a “his­toric vic­tory” for her group. She said the dairy in­dus­try should not be al­lowed to govern it­self, and an out­side party should be re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure the dairy code of prac­tice is fol­lowed on farms.

Hid­dema said the pub­lic should ex­pect more Mercy for An­i­mals in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the fu­ture.

In De­cem­ber, Chilli­wack Cat­tle Sales was fined $300,000 af­ter pres­i­dent Ken­neth Kooy­man pleaded guilty to three charges of an­i­mal cru­elty on be­half of the farm it­self and his brother Wes­ley, a com­pany di­rec­tor, pleaded guilty to one charge per­son­ally. Four other for­mer farm em­ploy­ees are also fac­ing an­i­mal cru­elty charges. They are ex­pected in court on May 29.

GLENDA LUYMES/PNG

Craig Si­cotte is the de­fence lawyer for three men con­victed of an­i­mal cru­elty charges at a Chilli­wack dairy farm.

— MERCY FOR AN­I­MALS CANADA

Hid­den cam­era footage of work­ers at a dairy farm in Chilli­wack led to charges over mis­treat­ment of cat­tle.

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