Montreal dairy giant Saputo says it will refuse to buy milk from farmers that don’t treat their animals humanely.
The change is part of a new animal welfare policy the company released today after it became entangled in a controversy last year when an undercover video was made public showing cows being punched, kicked and beaten with pipes at one of its suppliers.
Saputo (TSX:SAP), one of the world’s largest dairy processors, says it wants all farmers and employees to sign yearly codes of conduct and is working with universities to improve education on animal welfare.
Although federal law only allows processors to refuse to accept milk over health concerns, Saputo says it will not accept milk from sites where animals have been mistreated, as it did for two days last summer when a video surfaced depicting animal abuse at an operation in Chilliwack, B.C.
Chilliwack Cattle fired eight employees after Mercy for Animals released a video that showed young men beating the animals.
The animal rights group praised Saputo for its new policy, which also commits to eliminating the practice of cutting or docking the cow’s tail, administering pain control when dehorning cattle and reducing stress on cows through low-energy animal handling methods.
Mercy for Animals says three of the world’s largest dairy companies — Nestle, Leprino Foods and Great Lakes Cheese — have recently announced similar animal welfare requirements.