The owner of the cows on the run had a thick file at MAPAQ

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The owner of the cows on the run had a thick file at the MAPAQ

Two months ago the run of the famous cows of Saint -Severe. Behind this seemingly comical story hides an agricultural producer overwhelmed by events, who is not in his first trouble with the Ministry of Agriculture. The farm owner downplays the seriousness of the violations committed, while acknowledging that there is room for improvement.

It's at Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils, located at Saint-Barnabé, home to the famous cows on the run in Mauricie.

Radio-Canada has learned through the Access to Information Act that Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils, owner of the cows that escaped, has been visited 13 times by MAPAQ inspectors over the past decade and that they gave him 11 notices of non-compliance between 2010 and 2018.

Thereafter, five statements of offense totaling more than $5,000 were given to the farm in 2013 and 2016 by the Ministry of Justice.

The heaviest fine, $3,750, for violating the animal welfare law in 2016 has still not been paid by the agricultural company, which still owes the government more than $4,000 for tickets unpaid.

The MAPAQ refused to send us the most recent files, in particular those related to the run. The Access Act prevents us from responding favorably to the communication of documents subsequent to those which have been communicated to you, as long as it is possible that legal proceedings are taken, one can read in an email.

13 visits from MAPAQ

11 notices of non-compliance

5 statements of offense

Outstanding balance as of March 1, 2023: $4038

In May and September 2016, MAPAQ inspectors who visited Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils twice observed numerous breaches of the Animal Welfare and Safety Act. It was further to the visit of September 7, 2016 that a statement of offense of $3,750 was given, according to the Department of Justice.

In the reports, an inspector deplores that the basic maintenance of the animals is not ensured, that several cows and calves are kept in unsanitary conditions, that the water is of questionable quality and the food in insufficient quantity.

The inspector indicates that several cows have long or very long hooves and that some cattle show signs of thinness. He notes the presence of mold in the calf feeders and a dead bird in the outside water trough.

“The calves have crusty legs, flanks, and bellies from the manure.” The floor and the walls are covered with brownish colored solid and liquid excrement. The owner of the animals does not ensure that the welfare of the animals is not compromised. »

— Excerpt from a MAPAQ report

Radio-Canada obtained approximately 80 pages of documents related to Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils.

MAPAQ veterinarian and animal welfare advisor, Émilie Pelletier, explains that the Animal Welfare and Safety Act came into force in 2015 and that it states that the place must be healthy, clean and suitable. Ms. Pelletier indicates that inspectors generally travel following a complaint or to follow up.

According to her, there is always a gradation of sanctions, except when the situation is deemed too serious. Inspectors first issue notices of non-compliance and allocate a period of time to take corrective action. However, when the situation justifies it, an offense report is drawn up by the inspector and sent to the Ministry of Justice, which issues the statements of offence.

Pierre Lapointe's cows became famous after they escaped from their pen at the summer 2022.

After months on the run in Saint-Sévère, all the cows are back home

During their many visits, MAPAQ inspectors have noted repeatedly over the years many non-conformities.

The approximately 80 pages of documents obtained reveal that a first opinion was given as early as 2010 in connection with unclean equipment and poorly stored medication, and also note the lack of traceability tags on cows' ears.

In March and May 2013, the same non-compliances were again reported and two statements of offense were issued. In the small barn are several cattle piled up, writes the inspector, can we read in the report. There is no ventilation and the light does not seem to be sufficient. There is an accumulation of manure and the animals have no place to lie down without being on top of each other.

He indicates that there are about twenty heifers outside in the field whose only source of water is a stream. He also notes that 38 cattle and seven calves do not have identification tags.

MAPAQ inspection reports reveal shortcomings observed at Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils.

In 2015, following a complaint, an inspector returned to the scene and found the same problems and again issued a notice of non-compliance to Pierre Lapointe and his father, who were both in charge of the inspection at the time. #x27;farm.

I note that indeed 16 heifers are kept outside and have no shelter against the weather , writes the inspector in his report.

He laments in particular that the water basins outside are empty or frozen, that there is no water in one of the barns and that there is an accumulation of manure.

In 2016, three statements of offense were issued following visits by MAPAQ. In 2017, a new complaint concerning the lack of shelter for cattle gave rise to a new visit by an inspector who deemed the complaint unfounded. The last document obtained reveals a notice of non-compliance issued in 2018. The inspector noted issues related to the cleanliness of cows and their environment as well as dairy equipment.

Pierre Lapointe, who operated the farm with his father until 2021, admits having received repeated visits from MAPAQ in the past, but minimizes the offenses committed.

There are some on all the farms, they have to find something when they come, says Mr. Lapointe during the Radio-Canada visit at the end of February. We will do what they ask us to do.

“It is almost impossible that [the MAPAQ inspectors] will not find nothing [to complain about]. »

— Pierre Lapointe, agricultural producer in Saint-Barnabé

Pierre Lapointe was in charge of Ferme Clément Lapointe and son with his father until 2021.

Pierre Lapointe nevertheless recognizes that he may have been overwhelmed by constantly changing regulations and more recently when his cows took to the fields.

I agree, we are overwhelmed, finally admits the owner of the cows. We may still be old-fashioned, but anyway, I know animals are fine outside.

He says he remembers from this story all the gang he had to help him. It has also recently undertaken a process to bring its facilities up to standard. At the time of our visit, he was awaiting a visit from a consultant. He comes to help us put on the floor so that we are in order, he says. Things are changing very quickly.

During Radio-Canada's visit, some cows did not have traceability tags in their ears, including two calves conceived on the run and born in over the past few weeks.

Asked about this, Pierre Lapointe indicates that he does not intend to put them on right away. I don't want to hurt them because they've had enough misery in Saint-Sévère, the man justifies himself. I take great care of them, I do as I please, he concludes.

The province's most famous cattle have spent more than 6 months at large, caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage and mobilized for weeks the staff of the Municipality of Saint-Sévère, local farmers, the Union des producteurs farmers (UPA) from Mauricie, MAPAQ stakeholders, cowboys from Saint-Tite and a horse trainer. The ministry, which oversaw the operations after numerous calls for help from the municipality of Saint-Sévère, is also unable, despite our repeated requests, to quantify the costs of this run.

The Municipality of Saint-Sévère alone estimates that its citizens had to pay nearly $30,000 to return the cows to their owners. Despite MAPAQ's promises to reimburse it, the small Municipality has still not seen the color of its money.

The Mauricie UPA, which was very involved in the forty-day operation which made it possible to catch up with the animals in the wild, comes at zero cost, according to its president Martin Marcouiller.

Bringing the cows home was a complex task. (Photo: December 2022)

We had costs in relation to feeding the animals, the heifers, he explains, adding that it was the Clément Lapointe et fils farm that paid the bill. Local farmers who have dedicated countless hours to stalking have done so voluntarily, according to the UPA.

This is the first time is experiencing something that is a fairly banal situation, but which is also becoming enormous, confides Mr. Marcouiller, who has been involved in the UPA for twenty years.

The president of the UPA de la Mauricie, Martin Marcouiller, is concerned about the mental health of agricultural producers.

The president, who is also a pork producer in Mauricie, affirms that the standards are changing very quickly and that Quebec is one of the most regulated provinces in the country. Whether at the level of MAPAQ, animal welfare or the environment, everything is really regulated, notes Mr. Marcouiller, deploring in the same breath the paperwork and bureaucracy that come with it.

It's hell, pleads Mr. Marcouiller. Yes, it's good, animals, animal welfare, the environment, but there is another side, there is an overload at the producer level and this is what begins to be a bit heavy to bear.

“Instead of talking about cows on the run, if we could talk a little about psychological distress among our producers, producers. »

— Martin Marcouiller, President of the Mauricie UPA

The president of the UPA de la Mauricie, Martin Marcouiller

The president of the UPA de la Mauricie refuses to throw stones at the owner of the cows. He was overwhelmed by all that, but the main thing is that the operation is over, explains Martin Marcouiller, who insists on the solidarity between producers, but also on the distress that some of them are experiencing. them.

It also indicates that the producers who suffered damage were reimbursed by the insurers of Ferme Clément Lapointe et fils.

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