Lino Saputo, under fire from animal welfare activists at his company’s annual meeting, said he wants the right to refuse milk from marketing boards based on animal welfare standards.
He said the company was in a tight spot when it refused to buy milk from the British Columbia marketing board after Mercy for Animals gave an underground video of animal abuse at Chilliwack Dairy Sales Ltd. to television stations.
He said Saputo Inc. and all other dairy-processing customers of marketing boards can only refuse to take milk shipments based on food safety.
Saputo said he wants processing companies to be involved in developing codes of practice for dairy farmers and wants regular farm inspections.
But Krista Osborne, executive director for Mercy for Animals, was not satisfied.
She wants video cameras placed in dairy barns and live streaming of those videos on the internet so the public can watch how the cows are being treated.
While Saputo is buckling to Mercy for Animals, it will be interesting to watch what it's main competitor, aggressive Agropur, will say. It's a cooperative owned by dairy farmers who may be less enthusiastic about granting processors the right to refuse milk on the basis of animal welfare abuse.
The animal welfare issue stole media attention from Saputo’s announcement that the dividend will be increased by three cents to 26 cents per share and that the stock will be split.
Net earnings increased by 6.3 per cent to $145.3 million and revenues increased by more than 20 per cent to $2.62 billion.