Fraser Valley Farm Animal Abuse Images May Be Ineligible If Obtained Illegally: Lawyers

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As the SPCA prepares a case recommending charges to Crown counsel, attorney Victoria Shroff says any illegally obtained evidence could be removed from court review.

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A video that allegedly shows evidence of animal abuse on an Abbotsford dairy farm raises questions from legal experts as to whether charges could be brought to court.

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According to SPCA Executive Director Lorie Chortyk, the BC SPCA said it obtained about 300 video footage last week, some appearing to depict “disturbing” cases of animal abuse at Cedar Valley Farms.

“The videos were submitted to us by an organization that decided to report us anonymously,” Chortyk said of the images. The SPCA said it believed the video was obtained by someone who had hacked into the farm’s surveillance system. The company alleges the clips show farm workers treating animals in violation of the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act and “potentially” of the Criminal Code of Canada.

As the SPCA prepares a case recommending charges to Crown counsel, attorney Victoria Shroff says any illegally obtained evidence could be removed from court review.

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“The way the evidence is acquired can make or break a case, especially if it’s the only evidence,” said Shroff, professor of animal law at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia who did is not affiliated with the SPCA. “If the evidence is not obtained legally, it can be challenged. “

This was the case in the spring of 2019 when images taken by an activist at Abbotsford’s Excelsior pig farm showed a number of dead piglets and a pig that appeared to be struggling to stand. According to the SPCA, the Crown prosecutor ruled the video evidence inadmissible because it was obtained through illegal means. Four of the activists involved face trespassing charges.

Currently, there are no Canadian laws governing commercial agricultural practices relating to animal welfare, although the National Farm Animal Care Council, an organization run by members of certain industry representatives, has codes that relate to it.

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“We need charges or penalties for those charged,” said Rebeka Breder, a Vancouver animal rights lawyer, who believes a lack of transparency and accountability in the industry is pushing activists to resort. to illegal means of reporting cruelty to animals.

The SPCA said it wants industry and government to take greater responsibility for animal welfare on commercial farms, including surveillance cameras that could be monitored by a third party.

The donor-funded SPCA conducts about 9,000 investigations a year, but with 40 officers, it does not have the resources to monitor the approximately 5,000 commercial farms in British Columbia.

“It is the responsibility of government and industry to ensure that they have a more proactive third-party audit system to ensure these violations do not occur,” Chortyk said.

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In an email statement, the province’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said it is “currently exploring different ways to strengthen animal welfare laws and practices in Colombia.” British”.

“The ministry is working closely with the BC SPCA and commodity boards to identify any violation of our legislation or our code of practice and take appropriate action as needed,” the statement said.

After the SPCA recommends charges to Crown attorneys, it can take a few weeks to several months for them to be approved.

Cedar Valley Farms did not respond to Postmedia when contacted for comment.

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