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B.C. chicken-catching company pleads guilty to animal abuse

Whether charges will be dropped against Ontario-based Sofina still uncertain
Still from a video of workers loading birds into crates at an Abbotsford egg farm on July 15, 2020, according to Janice Soranno who provided the video to the media. (Vimeo)

The Chilliwack chicken-catching company involved in a high-profile case of animal abuse has pleaded guilty to two of the 38 charges it faced in BC Supreme Court.

Elite Farm Services Ltd. entered the guilty pleas Monday (Sept. 27) in court in Chilliwack.

Elite, along with the company’s owner Dwayne Paul Dueck and Ontario-based Sofina Foods, each originally faced 38 charges under the Health of Animals act in connection with the case involving undercover videos shot by California-based animal rights activist group Mercy For Animals.

Undercover footage of employees wearing Elite jackets showed them throwing, kicking, stomping and tearing apart birds at farms in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley and Surrey.

The videos were called “absolutely sickening” by the executive director of the BC Chicken Marketing board, and Dueck himself expressed shock.

“We are sickened with the footage and want to ensure all our suppliers and producers that this is not reflective of who we are, our fundamental beliefs or behaviour we accept from our employees,” Dueck said in a company statement issued in June 2017.

Dueck, Sofina and their legal teams filed numerous applications to the court in the months after being charged in 2017, including regarding the admissibility of video evidence and alleged abuse of process.

Then they applied to have the charges dropped due to unreasonable delay, a Charter application under section 11 (b) that says cases need to be heard in a reasonable time. That hearing started in late August running into early September.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley chicken abuse case defendants want charges dropped due to delay

READ MORE: B.C. chicken farmers respond to videos of violent abuse of birds at Chilliwack farms

Last year, employees allegedly from Elite Farm Services were again caught on undercover video harming chickens at an Abbotsford egg farm on July 15, 2020. No charges have been laid in connection with that incident.

The parties are scheduled next in court for a conference on Oct. 14.

RELATED: Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Abbotsford egg farm

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