300,000 Chickens Killed By Attacks on Farm Alarm Systems

By Sarah Zhang on at

In the past two weeks, attacks at 16 South Carolina chicken houses have left over 300,000 chickens dead. Farmed chickens rarely live good lives, but these deaths were especially horrible: Someone with inside knowledge of the houses temperature alarm systems, slowly killed the chickens with heat and cold.

The criminals, who seemed to have expert knowledge about raising chickens, bypassed alarm systems that keep temperatures under control. "Those alarms also control the heat, air conditioning and ventilation units and notify farmers by cellphone when buildings get too hot or cold," reports the Charlotte Observer. The attackers knew whether to jack up the heat for older birds, which require cooler temperatures, or turn it off for chicks, which need more heat.

An employee at one of the farms described the scene for the Observer.

He said he noticed a large amount of steam coming from the sides and the roofs of the chicken houses when he arrived at work around 7 a.m. He immediately knew something was wrong.

When he walked into one of the chicken houses, he said it was like a sheet of white – almost like snow – that wasn't moving. The ventilation was shut off and the temperature inside the house was turned up to 115 degrees F [46 degrees C - ed.].

Officials told Reuters that revenge may be a motive. Not long before the spree of chicken killing started, Pilgrims Pride Corp, the country's largest poultry producer, laid off 60 workers at a South Carolina plant. The targeted chicken houses all raised animals for Pilgrims Pride.

The sheer scale of the carnage reflects the massive, automated world of chicken farming. It's still unclear exactly how the attacker or attackers bypassed the alarm systems, but killing chickens is apparently not just a low-tech crime. [Charlotte Observer, Reuters]

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