There have been a lot of rumours circulating among Ontario dairy farmers about the animal cruelty case in British Columbia, most of them arising out of a grain of truth – but only a grain.
First, the refusal by Saputo Inc. to take milk from Chilliwack Cattles Sales Ltd. after Mercy for Animals publicized video-taped cases of severe animal abuse, is a publicity stunt.
The British Columbia milk marketing board pools all milk it picks up from its quota-holding dairy producers.
Saputo Inc. does not know whence its milk comes.
In fact, since the plant located closest to Chilliwack Cattle Sales is owned by Agropur, it likely goes there. Agropur is a farmer-owned co-operative based in Quebec.
Second, the milk board’s refusal to take milk from the farm did not result in a shortage of milk for the B.C. market, nor were there imports from the United States to fill any market gaps.
The ban was short-lived because owner Jeff Kooyman was able to demonstrate to independent auditors that his dairy is in compliance with animal welfare standards.
As soon as he was cleared by that audit, the milk board was obligated to pay for any milk that meets quality standards and the volume could be verified.
In the meantime, the milk was not a total loss. It was trucked to an energy-producing facility near Lynden in Washington State that uses organic material.
The Kooyman farm has in the past been a feature stop for overseas dairy-industry visitors, both for its size and its efficiency.
Its milking system is a rotary parlour, so staff needs to keep the stalls filled which may explain why they were using canes to get cows into the stalls.
And an experienced dairy farmer said if a cow goes down in a rotary-milker stall, the only way to get her out is to drag her from behind which will look like severe animal abuse to the uninitiated.
It is true that Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd. had a previous conviction for animal abuse.