6 Apr 2021

MPI considering legal action over the deaths of nearly 200k chickens

12:00 pm on 6 April 2021

The deaths of nearly 200,000 chickens in a commercial barn over a year ago may be the subject of legal action.

Chicken farm.

Photo: 123RF

In November 2019 between 180,000 and 190,000 chickens died at a West Auckland farm which supplied Tegel chicken.

A 48-minute power outage cut the air supply to the barns which housed the chickens. They either suffocated or overheated.

The Ministry for Primary Industries was investigating the deaths, and it has now asked for the opinions of Crown lawyers.

"This matter is still undergoing legal review by the Crown solicitors and we are awaiting their recommendations," a spokesperson said.

At the time of the deaths, MPI's compliance director Gary Orr said if there was culpability, they would take action.

Orr said they were not immediately told of the deaths, and only found out after they were tipped off by someone else.

"We were made aware of it through a third party, and it was only after we were provided that information [that] we reached out to the company and they then confirmed. That's going to be part of another conversation we'll be having," Orr said in December 2019.

Tegel confirmed the deaths were on a farm that they contracted to grow chickens.

"Tegel has confirmed that a power interruption on the grid and the subsequent failure in the backup systems has resulted in the loss of birds from a farm in Helensville. Tegel is working closely with all its contracted growers to ensure contingency systems are in place and working correctly," a statement said at the time.

Direct Animal Action spokesperson Deirdre Sims said no one should be able to kill hundreds of thousands of animals and get away with it.

"It's absolutely disgusting but unfortunately it's not surprising when you have companies like Tegel that cram thousands of chickens into these factory farm buildings," Sims said.

"Tegel absolutely need to be held accountable for this."