Animal cruelty claims 'untrue'

2009-08-17 16:02

Johannesburg - A former provincial agriculture minister accused of killing thousands of chicks every week, has denied animal cruelty claims.

"The whole story about the dumping of the chicks was staged by a disgruntled employee," said George Gibbens, lawyer for Jan Serfontein, the former North West agriculture MEC.

"My clients never issued an instruction to dump live chicks in a dam... they never gave such instructions and they never participated in such a thing.

"They used to gas the chicks to death and the carcasses were disposed of to lion farmers [as food for lions]," Gibbens told Sapa.

'Chicks would be macerated'

He said the National Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty (NSPCA) took footage of the chicks in an empty dam while their officials knew the chicks would be macerated (fed into a high-speed grinder) the following day, a legal way to cull male chicks.

Male chicks are useless to farmers who breed lay hens.

Gibbens said his clients had invited the NSPCA to witness the maceration, but they arrived at the farm a day before it was scheduled to take place, and Serfontein allowed them onto the premises.

Del Jones, the manager of the farm animal unit at the NSPCA, said Serfontein needed to prove that they gassed the birds.

"Yes, he had invited us... but the bottom line is the macerator was only brought in after we had been there," said Jones.

She said Serfontein had told her that he gassed his birds.

"But, we are saying, 'please prove this'."

Saga 'blown out of proportion'

The entire saga had been blown out of proportion, said Gibbens.

Current affairs show Carte Blanche broadcast a second programme on the alleged cruelty on Sunday evening.

"The report on Carte Blanche saying that they are actually dumping the chickens and leaving them to die is not true...

"Unsubstantiated claims were broadcast in a reckless way and legal action will follow," said Gibbens.

'70 000 chicks killed every week'

Last week, Beeld newspaper reported that animal rights groups were up in arms over alleged dodgy chick killing practices on one of the biggest chicken farms in the country.

According to the report on Wednesday up to 70 000 male birds were dumped in an empty farm dam to starve or suffocate to death every week, because they were "economically worthless".

According to a former Boskop Layer Chicks employee, Kobus van Zyl, this had been going on for the past 70 years, as long as the North West chicken farm had existed.

He said his clients would plead not guilty if charges of inhumane treatment of animals were brought against Serfontein and his son, Jan jnr.

The NSPCA has laid nine charges under the Animal Protection Act, the police confirmed on Friday.