Cooke's statement was released after Compassion Over Killing (COK), an animal rights group from Washington, disseminated footage of employees at the hatchery killing deformed and diseased fish. Cooke officials were contacted by the Maine Department of Agriculture about the footage on 16 September and met with the department the following day to discuss the complaint by COK.
Cooke responded this week, having seen the footage for the first time, by staying: “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.
“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.”
He added: “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.”