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Cooke chief 'deeply saddened' by abuse of fish at hatchery

Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture. Image: The Globe and Mail
Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture. Image: The Globe and Mail

A video has surfaced that shows Cooke employees smashing salmon against posts and discarding them. The footage was shot at the Bingham, Maine hatchery run by Cooke.

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The video was released by Compassion Over Killing (COK), an animal rights group from Washington, DC.  It shows employees abusing fish that are “deformed and diseased” according to COK reports.

“I am disappointed and deeply saddened by what I saw,”  said Glenn Cooke, chief executive of Cooke Aquaculture.

“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.

“Cooke officials were contacted by the Maine Department of Agriculture (MDA) on September 16 and met with the department at the hatchery on September 17 to discuss the complaint, which included hidden camera video footage of fish handling in our Bingham hatchery.”

It was not until earlier this week that Cooke was provided the opportunity to review the footage and has yet to confirm how the video was originally obtained.

Not happy

"Based on information received from the MDA and after reviewing the footage it appears that unacceptable fish handling incidents have occurred at the Bingham hatchery. These are not our standards and will not continue,” said Cooke.

“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.”

Cooke employees will undergo “rigorous re-training” at all global operations including the Maine hatchery as animal welfare is one of the company’s top priorities.

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 addition 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,” added Cooke.

Enhancing procedures

“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 unequalled, 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.”

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