Elite Farm Services workers seen throwing chickens at a Chilliwack farm in undercover video filmed by Mercy for Animals.

Privacy Commissioner questions use of body cameras by Fraser Valley chicken catchers

Investigation launched after undercover videos at Chilliwack, Abbotsford farms led to the practice

After undercover footage caught Fraser Valley chicken catchers violently abusing birds, the company who employed the workers said it would equip them with body cameras.

READ MORE: Chilliwack chicken catchers accused of ‘torturing’ birds in undercover videos

As soon as a farm services company announced the use of body cameras on chicken catchers in the wake of violent undercover video, B.C.’s privacy commissioner started to investigate the practice.

But whether the company’s use of surveillance of its employees was a privacy violation was a question quickly raised by B.C.’s privacy commissioner.

Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Drew McArthur launched an investigation into the practice of using body cameras after media reports in June about the newly instituted practice.

READ MORE: Chicken catchers to wear body cameras following abuse video

Wednesday morning McArthur is scheduled to release “Investigation Report P17-01: Use of employee surveillance by a B.C. chicken catching organization,” according to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C.

The report is said to examine whether Elite Services out of Abbotsford was authorized by the Personal Information Protection Act to use video surveillance to monitor its employees in Chilliwack and Abbotsford poultry farms.

Back in June, animal activist group Mercy for Animals released undercover footage that showed live birds being torn apart, stomped and thrown.

WARNING: This video shows disturbing images of animal abuse that may upset some viewers

Following the release of the video, Elite Services president Duane Dueck said the company pledged big changes.

Three Elite workers were dismissed as a direct result of the video, and Dueck said new operating procedures included a video system for the chicken-catching service hired to round up and transport chickens.

“Effective immediately, it will be mandatory for one supervisor and two staff members in each barn to wear cameras on their safety vests to capture the activity within the barn,” said Dueck, in a follow-up news release in June.

Mercy for Animals Canada vice-president Krista Hiddema called the announcement the company would use body cameras “absolutely ridiculous.”

“It’s almost comical that they are taking the position they are going to wear cameras,” Hiddema said. “In the absence of the video being live-streamed to the Internet, body cameras are absolutely ridiculous and it’s still a matter of the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Now the Privacy Commissioner will decide whether the use of the cameras is a privacy violation.

See www.theprogress.com Wednesday for a follow-up on the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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