It’s in the news. People are advocating on behalf of farm animals and trying to bring change to the system.
Animal rights activists occupied the B.C. SCPA’s head office in East Vancouver on Friday, calling for changes to the way cruelty investigations are conducted in the province.
The protesters entered the building at around 9 a.m., and vowed to remain there through the weekend.
Speaking to reporters outside, activist Jordan Reichert noted the SPCA – an organization funded entirely by charitable donations – is solely responsible for investigating animal abuse, whether it be at people’s homes or in the factory farming industry.
“We are here today to call on the B.C. SCPA to step down from their enforcement duties and allow a more capable, publicly funded and accountable government agency to take over,” Reichert said.
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“No other public laws in the province or in Canada are enforced by a private charity.”
There are approximately 6,000 animal farms across the province, and the protesters want to see more oversight at all of them.
Animal rights activists have been particularly vocal in their disappointment at the lack of charges against Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, despite the release of concerning video that was allegedly captured at the property in 2019.
The only subsequent charges have been against a group of activists supporters have dubbed the “Excelsior Four,” who are facing counts of mischief and breaking and entering.
“The system in place to protect these animals continues to fail them in the worst way possible,” Reichert said.
The SPCA told CTV News that staff welcomed the protesters into the office Friday morning, and showed them how to access the restrooms.
Spokesperson Lorie Chortyk said she believes the activists’ values are more closely aligned with the SPCA’s than they realize. The organization has been calling for more oversight on farms as well, by both government and industry, including the use of 24-hour video surveillance that can be accessed and audited by a third-party.
“It’s sad because obviously people can have any opinion they want – everyone’s entitled to that – but I think we would achieve so much more by working together,” Chortyk said of the protesters.
“The B.C. SPCA obviously wants the best for farm animals. That’s a part of our mission. That’s part of the reason we all work here.”
Chortyk argued no one agency would be capable of consistently monitoring thousands of farms.
When it comes to investigating reports of abuse, she said the SPCA, whose constables are sworn in under the Police Act, has all the resources it needs.
“We respond to every complaint we get and investigate them, including at commercial farms. We did nearly 10,000 investigations last year,” she said.
Chortyk also noted that officers went to Excelsior Hog Farms on multiple occasions to check on the condition of animals after the video was released nearly three years ago.
“The reason we couldn’t move forward with Crown counsel is when we did our investigation, there wasn’t any sign of distress,” she said. “Unfortunately, because the video wasn’t obtained legally, it wouldn’t be admissible in court.”
CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Agriculture, which issued a statement calling the protection of animals a priority for the government.
“The ministry has been engaged in dialogue with the BC SPCA, the BC Agriculture Council and specific commodity organizations to support the development of an inspection system that is fair, and that all parties can understand and support,” the statement said.
“We continue to work with animal welfare organizations to identify opportunities and monitor potential issues to ensure robust animal welfare policies are in place in B.C.”
The ministry also noted the province previously adopted the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice, which covers animal handling, housing, health and welfare management.
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