“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has laid 60 criminal charges against Brampton-based Maple Lodge Farms, Canada’s largest independent chicken processor, alleging violations of federal animal health regulations.
The CFIA alleges that between December 2008 and February 2009, and then December 2009 and April 2010, thousands of chickens died from exposure to cold conditions during transportation from farm to slaughterhouse, often because of proximity to a truck trailer’s floor or walls.
Two of the counts have been heard in a series of six hearings at the Ontario Court of Justice, in Brampton, which began in September. The hearings continue on Monday.
In one count, dated “on or about” Dec. 30 and Dec.31, 2008, the Crown alleges that 711 chickens, of nearly 10,000 in shipment, were “found dead on arrival” at Maple Lodge’s slaughterhouse. In the other, “on or about” Feb. 23, 2009, 1,181 chickens, of nearly 11,000, were discovered dead upon unloading at the slaughterhouse.
The first count concerns a haul of broiler chickens, which are raised solely for meat production; their breasts and thighs appear on grocery store shelves. The second refers to a load of spent hens, a term for poultry no longer capable of laying eggs, whose meat is often used in ground chicken products.
Maple Lodge, which also has a processing plant in New Brunswick, sells frozen chicken, sliced meats, chicken wieners and chicken bacon, as well as a line of halal products.
Frail and fragile after de-feathering and a lifetime laying eggs, spent hens are especially susceptible to cold exposure.
“We have very stringent protocols in place regarding the transportation of animals,” Maple Lodge spokesperson Carol Gardin said. “At the end of the day, it’s not only moral and ethical considerations regarding the humane handling of the birds, there’s a financial incentive to keep the birds in the best health.”…”