Mass Chicken Death Investigation Reveals Gaping Flaws In Aotearoa’s Animal Welfare System – SAFE For Animals

A series of power cuts resulted in the deaths of 180,000 chickens in November 2019 at a West Auckland broiler chicken farm owned by DB Chicks Limited.

The New Zealand Herald has revealed an alarm system failed to alert the farm manager of power outages because an internet router lacked an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS).

The incident has since been described as the biggest agricultural mass death event in Aotearoa’s history. MPI conducted an audit of the farm practices around two months prior to the deaths, however, a total loss of both the mains power and the generator were not tested.

SAFE Campaigns Manager Jessica Chambers said MPI’s investigation raises deeply concerning flaws.

“Either MPI’s audit was conducted poorly, or our animal welfare system needs an overhaul,” said Chambers.

“Even the most novice internet user knows that a router won’t work without power. If MPI had been thorough, this animal welfare disaster could have been avoided.”

Following their investigation, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) chose not to prosecute the farmer in question despite the deaths being completely preventable. Less than one per cent of all complaints received by MPI lead to prosecution, far lower than other areas of criminal law.

“The Farm had a responsibility to ensure that these birds were not going to die as a result of hyperthermia and suffocation, and they failed to do that. MPI was responsible for ensuring the farm’s equipment was up to standard and they also failed to do so. It’s hard to comprehend that no party here has been held accountable for the loss of nearly 200,000 lives.”

“At the end of the day, the buck stops with MPI. Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, they have a duty to closely monitor the welfare of animals on farms. In November 2019, MPI clearly failed which raises the question of whether they are up to the task.”