A farm and food company have been fined a total of $300,000 after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges involving transportation of chickens in the Fraser Valley.
The accused — Elite Farm Services Ltd. and Sofina Foods Inc./Aliments Sofina Inc. — both entered guilty pleas to two counts of animal cruelty.
One count alleges that between May 10, 2017 and June 7, 2017 near Chilliwack, they unlawfully loaded the chickens in a way likely to cause injury or undue suffering.
A second count alleged the same offence but for the time period between May 17, 2017 and June 8, 2017 near Abbotsford.
Joshua Latawiec, while volunteering for the non-profit organization Mercy for Animals, got a job with Elite Farm in May 2017 as a chicken catcher, according to the judge's Dec. 14 decision.
“During the course of his employment, he took notes and made video recordings of inhumane conduct he witnessed in the course of the loading activities,” the judge said.
The decision said Latawiec saw Elite employees:
- throwing, swinging, stepping on, tormenting, striking, kicking and dropping birds;
- bowling with birds;
- causing birds to be pinched in a loading module;
- loading birds in an aggressive manner;
- unnecessary handling of birds; and
- killing of birds
Mercy for Animals provided evidence gathered by Latawiec to the Canada Food Inspection Agency, which conducted an investigation into the allegations.
The judge said Sofina, through its live haul supervisor, failed to ensure Elite was meeting Sofina’s minimum standards to ensure chickens are not handled in a manner likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them.
The judge said Elite Farm and Sofina have made significant changes as a result of this investigation.