Destroying milk from mistreated B.C. dairy cows to be recycled, but ultimately still go to waste

A dairy cow with a nose ring is shown at the Kooyman family dairy farm in Chilliwack, B.C. (Canadian Press)A dairy cow with a nose ring is shown at the Kooyman family dairy farm in Chilliwack, B.C. (Canadian Press)

The fallout from an undercover investigation that revealed animal cruelty inside a Chilliwack, B.C. dairy farm has come quickly, intensely and surely left the farm itself reeling as a result.

But as part of an "unprecedented" response to the controversy surrounding Chilliwack Cattle Sales, an unknown amount of milk will be destroyed as collateral damage.

Major milk labels are refusing to accept milk products from the farm and, in a decision considered extraordinary and unprecedented in B.C., if not all of Canada, the B.C. Milk Marketing Board has announced it will not put dairy from the farm into circulation.

"The Board has received requests from processors that milk orders do not include milk deliveries from Chilliwack Cattle Sales until the additional independent audits have been completed," the board said in a statement. "The Board will act in accordance with processor requests and due to lack of market, the milk will be destroyed."

Vicki Crites, manager of policy and communication, told Yahoo Canada News that the milk would be recycled.

"The milk is being picked up from the farm and transported to an organic food waste recycling facility," Crites said in an email. "The milk is unloaded into a contained pit and put through an Anaerobic Digester to be turned back into energy."

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which plant and animal matter is broken down and converted into methane-rich gas, which can be used as renewable energy. Crites did not say how much milk would be lost from the supply line.

The controversy began last week following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals exposed what it said were dairy cows being tortured at the Chilliwack Cattle Sales farm.

The group released undercover video that showed cows being whipped and hit with chains and other objects, punched, kicked and being lifted off the ground by their necks.

In response, Saputo announced it would refuse to accept milk from the facility, despite being required to by law through the province's milk marketing board. Saputo's position as Canada's largest milk processor apparently lent capital to the move, and the marketing board announced the milk would be destroyed.

Anna Pippus, Mercy for Animals' director of legal advocacy, told Yahoo Canada News the destruction of the milk should help ensure conditions improve on Canadian dairy farms.

"We do hope that factory farmers see this as a wake-up call, that the Canadian public will not tolerate animal abuse," Pippus said in a phone interview.

"It is regrettable that it happened in this case, but hopefully it serves as a wake-up call for next time so it doesn't have to happen again."

A Facebook group in support of Chilliwack Cattle Sales has launched a petition to have Saputo resume milk pick up from the facility and end the milk waste.

"Did you know 2 people die every minute worldwide from starvation?" the petition reads.

"Yet you feel you have the right to dump precious milk? The abuse was terrible but the farm has taken the steps needed to prevent this from ever happening again."

While tainted or soiled food products have been removed from Canadian farms and factories only to be destroyed, it is rare that an otherwise clean, healthy product would be treated similarly.

General food waste is an issue on its own, with the chairwoman of a European Union council stating recently that supermarket waste was "morally repugnant," and suggesting the wasted excess should be donated to those in need.

The Natural Resources Defense Council states that 40 per cent of food goes uneaten in the U.S. after being lost somewhere between farms and the kitchen table. That's the equivalent of $165 billion being thrown away every year.

Those are small instances of waste, compounded over a long period of time. In this case, it is a large loss of milk, all at once.

The milk isn't going down the drain; it is being recycled to create some amount of renewable energy. But it is still a waste. Its destruction doesn't even the score for those abused animals. Its destruction doesn't really benefit anyone.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.