Disturbing undercover video shows animal cruelty at Cooke salmon hatchery: “We are not happy about this”

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Cooke Aquaculture has issued a press release after an undercover video shows what is alleged to be animal cruelty at the company’s salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine.

In the nearly five-minute video, uploaded by the animal protection organization Compassion Over Killing on Youtube, you get to see what is supposed to be employees throwing the fish around the facility. The video also claims that some fish suffer from fungal infections and have deformities. One of the employees states that “over the years you kinda get desensitized.”

Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke family of companies, provided the following statement after the company was contacted by the Maine Department of Agriculture regarding an animal welfare complaint submitted by an activist veganism organization called Compassion Over Killing:

“I am disappointed and deeply saddened by what I saw today. As a family company, we place animal welfare high in our operating standards and endeavor to raise our animals with optimal care and consideration of best practice. What we saw today is most certainly not reflective of these standards.

Company officials were contacted by the Maine Department of Agriculture on September 16th, 2019 and met with the department at the hatchery on September 17th to discuss a complaint, which included hidden camera video footage of fish handling in our Bingham hatchery. Until today, we had not been provided the opportunity to review the footage, nor do we know how it was obtained.

Based on information received from the department, and after reviewing the footage issued today by the activist veganism organization, it appears that unacceptable fish handling incidents have occurred at the Bingham hatchery. These are not our standards and will not continue. The Cooke family has been raising fish for over 35 years and we are not happy about this. We have already begun putting the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure this will not happen again.

I am very sorry that this has happened. We are thoroughly reviewing the footage and we are working closely with the Maine Department of Agriculture to review and ensure all our practices are within compliance. We are speaking with all our employees, and we will institute a rigorous re-training program at our Maine facility. This is one that we apply across all our global operations to enforce the importance of animal welfare.

We understand that animal health and welfare are an important piece of raising animals and are in position to manage those pieces effectively. As a company, we place animal welfare high in our operating standards and endeavor to raise our animals with optimal care and consideration of best practices. We regularly validate our internal best practices through regulatory compliance and voluntary third-party audits of our operations.  In additional to a rigorous global employee training and operational standards training program, we encourage employees to speak up when they have any questions or concerns, or if they feel that practices are not being adhered to.

Our family, company and our employees take animal welfare seriously. We have policies and protocols in place and work very hard to ensure our team is well trained and we are compliant with the rigorous standards that are set. We are immediately updating our facilities Health Management Plan and enhancing procedures and training for handling protocols. Our commitment to the health and care of our animals is nearly unequaled, matched only by our commitment to the highest quality, safest and most affordable farm-raised seafood products available anywhere in the world. Like most, we respect anyone’s dietary choices, whether that diet includes seafood, meat, milk and eggs or not.”