A judge has ordered Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. to invest $1 million in welfare initiatives over the next three years.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Kastner issued the order after Maple Lodge pleaded guilty to 18 charges of animal cruelty related to the transportation of chicken to its plant at Norval, near Brampton, Ont.
Kastner achieved her aim by putting the company on probation for three years and ordering it to make the investments so it complies with Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations for chicken transport.
She suspended the 18 counts for the duration of the probation.
Kastner also ordered the company to post information on its company website about what it did to draw the charges.
The court earlier convicted Maple Lodge on two counts relating to birds trucked during the winter of 2008-09 and Kastner imposed a fine of $80,000 for those convictions.
Kastner said the company failed to provide adequate staff training, enough workers or adequate equipment.
The lawyer for the government said Maple Lodge had a “religious dedication” to getting enough birds to the plant to keep processing lines running.
Maple Lodge argued that animal welfare infrations will continue within the chicken industry as long as the marketing board regulations pressure processors to take producers’ birds on schedule, regardless of the weather.
The marketing board imposes penalties on farmers who exceed their quotas, set in kilograms, and birds continue to gain weight if they can’t be marketed on schedule.
Kastner ordered the company to file quarterly reports indicating it’s in compliance with welfare standards. It slaughters about half a million birds per day.
Maple Lodge owns Nadeau Poultry in New Brunswick and it, too, has faced animal-cruelty charges and has been fined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.