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COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • FEBRUARY 2019


Preliminary hearing in high-profile poultry abuse CFIA lays charges while industry maintains it’s changed its ways


by PETER MITHAM CHILLIWACK – Three


parties appeared in Chilliwack provincial court December 18 to hear charges laid against them following a 2017 investigation into the abuse of chickens at farms in the Fraser Valley. Elite Farm Services Ltd., its


president Dwayne Dueck, and processor Sofina Foods Inc. are charged with 38 counts of abusing animals. The charges were brought forward by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency after an investigation sparked by undercover footage that staff with the animal rights group Mercy for Animals filmed as part of an Elite chicken catching crew. The footage caught crew members subjecting broiler chickens at various Abbotsford farms to mistreatment ranging from sexual assault to


dismemberment prior to delivery to Sofina. Elite responded promptly, terminating four staff that participated in the abuse (two others were no longer with the company), updating employee training protocols and tightening supervision of crews.


“Elite has worked hard to


make sure we have a company culture that is based on respect for the animals under our stewardship,” it said in a statement after the charges


were announced. The industry has also updated its protocols. BC Chicken Marketing Board implemented a new audit for chicken catching in fall 2017 and, as of January 1, 2018, began licensing catching companies and contractors. Unlicensed catching is no longer allowed. Marcie Moriarty, chief


prevention and enforcement officer with the BC SPCA, initially expected Crown counsel to lay charges against six individuals. Other investigations have usually led to the employees directly engaged in the abuse being


charged. However, the subsequent


investigation led to Dueck being the sole individual charged in this case. “CFIA determines who


responsible parties may be during an animal welfare investigation,” the federal agency told Country Life in BC. “We are not able to provide further comment regarding how charges are determined in this case as the matter is currently before the courts.” The charges could draw


hefty fines. When the Kooyman brothers of Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd. plead guilty and were


sentenced on four counts of abuse following a Mercy for Animals sting operation, the fines totalled $345,000 – the maximum fine of $75,000 for each count, plus a victim surcharge of $11,250. Restrictions were also placed on the men. BC Chicken Marketing


Board has not commented directly on the case. BCCMB spokesperson Cheryl Davie directed attention to a statement issued June 28, 2018 on the industry’s animal handling protocols. “The British Columbia


Chicken Marketing Board works closely with our


CUTS come as industry is expanding


been fallow or seeded to hay has been brought back into orchard production. Across the province, older, less profitable apple varieties are being replanted with new cultivars that will promise growers better returns. Pollock says the Ambrosia


crop sits at 400,000 cartons, but he expects that to triple to more than 1.2 million cartons in the next seven to nine years.


But new varieties call for


up-to-date grower knowledge. Honeycrisp, the most


profitable variety for growers in the current market, can


suffer up to 30% losses in the orchard. Grower skill varies greatly, with apple production ranging from an average of 30 bins an acre to more than 80. The difference shows the need for field support to assist growers, service for which the BC Fruit Growers Association honoured Markgraf when it presented him with its award of merit in 2017. “The board wanted to


focus more on the core business of what we do,” says Pollock. “We provide services that other grower-shippers across the valley do not do – field services being one of


them – and it was decided to cut staff.” Pollock’s statement is not completely accurate, however. Jealous Fruits, the largest cherry grower-shipper in the province, employs two field service horticulturalists for its one crop. BCTF members grow


apples, cherries, peaches, plums and nectarines. Many of the new plantings in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are cherries, a profitable export crop, yet Doug Needham, the co-op’s former export cherry coordinator who resigned this summer, will not be replaced.


THE HAY AND FORAGE TOOL SPECIALISTS Rotary Rakes


partners to ensure that stringent regulations related to the care and handling of our birds are met and followed; we have the highest standards in Canada,” board chair Robin Smith said in the statement. Sofina Foods, for its part, continues to study the charges brought forward by the CFIA. “It is still very early in the


proceedings. Sofina Foods Inc. is still reviewing the information provided by CFIA,” said Daniele Dufour, senior director,


communications and public relations with Sofina.


from page 7


Dukhia doesn’t think that the firings, resignations and lack of replacements will reflect badly on the co-op, however. “All the people I talk to are


supportive,” he says. “We are the leaders in the industry and they want us to be in good shape and


economically as lean as we can be to bring good prices.” “That’s the bottom line,” emphasizes Dukhia. “The main aim is to get good returns to the growers.” Dukhia adds that as a


former president of the BCFGA, he has a good knowledge of the industry and connections with parties on both sides of the legislature. “We are trying to get some


money for our long-term plan to have an automated plant in the north,” he says. Dukhia says the current


restructuring could also involve relocating the co-op to a cheaper location on Kelowna’s outskirts. A decision is expected within six months as part of a master plan for its holdings. “We have lots of properties


downtown, which is very expensive. We should be on the outskirts of the city where land is cheap,” he says. “We are looking to the next 50 years.”


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