Turkeys abused at Abbotsford company, animal rights group claims

Mercy for Animals releases video footage accusing Lilydale Food Products and its parent company of extreme animal abuse.

The group that exposed a Chilliwack dairy farm for the alleged abuse of cows in 2014 has now released hidden-camera video footage that it says shows turkeys being “shackled, shocked, cut open and scalded alive” at an Abbotsford poultry company.

The video was released Monday and posted on the website of Mercy for Animals, which recorded the footage at Lilydale Food Products on Marshall Road.

The organization says it is now demanding that Lilydale’s parent company, Sofina Foods, take immediate action “by adopting meaningful animal welfare policies to address the extreme animal abuse documented.”

Mercy for Animals states that the footage shows turkeys being scalded alive in hot water tanks, birds having their throats cut open and heads ripped off, and workers yanking turkeys out of crates and shackling them upside down on the slaughter line.

The organization also says that severely sick and injured birds are sent through the slaughter line for human consumption and that birds are shocked in an electrified vat of water but are still conscious and able to feel pain.

Matt Rice, executive vice-president of Mercy for Animals, told the Abbotsford News that these practices are standard in the poultry industry and that most consumers are unaware of the treatment that farm animals undergo when they are prepared for the food market.

“These are some of the most abused animals on the planet,” he said.

Rice said Mercy for Animals believes that Canadians deserve to know where their food is coming from, and he hopes the recent video results in change for the entire turkey industry.

The organization captures its video footage by having people apply for jobs and then secretly filming what goes on.

Rice said the footage in Abbotsford was shot over a three-week period.

Sofina Foods has not yet responded to  News’ request for comment, but a statement was posted on its website on Saturday in response to a CTV W5 report on the practices in Abbotsford.

“… the practices at our Abbotsford plant comply with current industry practices and government regulations,” the statement reads.

“We collaborate with industry, regulatory, and other experts continuously to enhance our practices. Additionally, Sofina’s first controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) system is due for delivery in the new year.”

Rice said Mercy for Animals is urging the organization to proceed company-wide with the CAS system, which removes oxygen from the birds’ atmosphere while they are still in their transport crates.

The oxygen is then slowly replaced with a non-poisonous gas, resulting in the birds’ deaths before they are removed from their crates.

Mercy for Animals said it wants to urge Sofina to follow the lead of Maple Leaf Foods – the largest meat producer in Canada – in pledging to implement a series of less-cruel animal welfare policies.

The handling and slaughter of food animals in Canada is regulated by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and slaughter houses must comply with provisions of the Meat Inspection Regulations.

A CFIA spokesperson said the Lilydale site has had “31 documented incidents” of concern over the last five years, but all were immediately corrected.

“None of the incidents were related to the scalding of birds without properly completing slaughter,” he said.

The spokesman said the CFIA has issued one “corrective action request” against Lilydale in the last five years related to the “transport and handling of poultry at arrival.” Corrective action was taken, he added.

The spokesman said that whenever the regulations are not followed, the CFIA takes action, and repercussions can include fines, the suspension of operations, or prosecution.

Earlier this year, Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd., was charged with 20 animal cruelty charges after Mercy for Animals released undercover video in 2014 showing dairy cows being beaten.

Eight employees were fired following the release of the video, and the BC SPCA launched the investigation which led to the charges.

That matter is still making its way through the courts.

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