Canadian Packaging

Animal welfare concerns vs personal privacy

Use of employee surveillance filming at poultry farms runs afoul of Canadian privacy laws.


November 13, 2017
by Canadian Packaging staff

According to a report prepared by British Columbia’s acting information and privacy commissioner Drew McArthur, the province’s privacy laws (Personal Information Protection Act – aka PIPA) take precedent over capturing future animal abuse at a poultry farm.

Earlier this year, employees of BC chicken-catching contractor Elite Farm Services Ltd. of Chilliwack, BC, were captured on video stomping on live chickens and tearing the birds apart. Five workers and one supervisor were fired after the video and story made global headlines.

Along with investigations by Elite Foods, poultry customer Sofina Foods, Inc., and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA), Loblaw Companies Ltd. said it plans to ensure that all its poultry suppliers maintain the standards set by its supplier code of conduct.

To ensure its employees maintained the ethical treatment of the animals, Elite Foods began having a supervisor and other employees wear body cameras.

However, McArthur says that leads to issues in of itself: “I was concerned that video surveillance was being used as a ‘quick fix,’ without thoughtful consideration of its privacy impacts.”

He points out that body cameras would also film people who were not involved in the original video—those people were fired—but the body cameras would also collect information about other workers who were not company employees, such as farmers, truckers and other contractors—in other words, those who had not consented to be filmed.

Elite Foods stopped the body camera initiative after investigations were begun, but says that it and the chicken catching and processing industries are moving towards an independent system of audits and third-party certifications.

The Mercy for Animals Canada organization that first filmed the instance of animal abuse at the Chilliwack facility says that the body camera program should be expanded upon, but did agree that third-party auditing should be in place.

The full report compiled by the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia can be read HERE.

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