Update: Task force investigates SA layer farm

20-08-2009 | | |

Police, the animal welfare society NSPCA and officers of the ‘Green Scorpions’ task force of the department of environmental affairs have carried out an investigation regarding the controversial South African layer farm in Potchefstroom.

Boskop Layer Farm (one of the country’s three biggest chicken farms) is owned by former provincial minister of agriculture Jan Serfontein. He faces 9 charges of severe animal cruelty. The farm allegedly ‘culls’ 70,000 male chicks per week by throwing them in an empty cement dam and leaving them there to die.

On Tuesday, investigators collected forensic evidence of dead chickens, chicks and eggs still present in the dam, Beeld newspaper reported. A police spokesman told the paper that people are ‘queuing’ to testify against Serfontein.

Beeld journalists were barred from entering the premises by Serfonteins wife Juanita who said the family was frustrated because they couldn’t carry on with their daily business as the investigation was disrupting the workflow. “Our situation is insecure; our employees fear we’ll have to close the place down. There are more than a 100 people depending on us for their jobs! We’ve done nothing wrong. Show me one business enterprise in South Africa that never makes a mistake.”

Further reports state that earlier this week, Jan Serfontein denied the accusations of animal cruelty. His legal representative George Gibbens stated that the farm used to gas the chicks, after which the carcasses were buried or given to lion and pig farmers as animal feed. When Beeld asked Serfonteins son to provide cash slips from the company where they bought the gas as evidence, Jan Serfontein junior refused.

Meanwhile, 2 major South African retail chains have broken ties with the Boskop Layer Farm. Retail store Woolworths and supermarket Pick ‘n Pay said that they would no longer sell any eggs from hens bred by the Serfonteins. Pick ‘n Pay spokeswoman Tamra Veley said the chain store was now demanding written undertakings from their egg suppliers that the hens had been treated ‘ethically’. Woolworths’ food director Julian Novak said it was important that animals be treated ‘humanely throughout the production process’.

According to former Boskop employee Kobus van Zyl, the inhumane culling of the rooster chicks had been going on for the past 70 years, as long as the chicken farm in the North West Province has existed. If 70,000 chicks were indeed killed every week for the past 70 years, that calculates into more than 254 mln chicks.

Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist