/ 13 August 2009

Chain store breaks ties with ‘unethical’ hen breeder

Two major chain stores have broken ties with a chicken farm because he does not treat his animals ethically.

A major chain store has broken ties with a former provincial minister of agriculture’s chicken farm because he does not treat his animals ethically, Beeld reported on Thursday.

Woolworths, according to the newspaper, would no longer sell any eggs from hens bred by Jan Serfontein and his son, Jan, on one of the country’s three biggest chicken farms, Boskop Layer Chickens.

Pick n Pay, however, said that while it had not broken ties with Serfontein, it had taken steps to ensure that the animals were treated ethically.

Pick n Pay food merchandise director Kevin Korb said in a statement that following a TV programme aired on August 2, which exposed ”the cruel and inhumane manner in which one-day old male chicks were disposed of”, Pick n Pay immediately wrote to all its eggs suppliers.

Korb said the suppliers were asked to submit a written undertaking that in terms of animal rearing and husbandry practices they would adhere to the South African Poultry Association’s (Sapa) guidelines and principles.

They were also asked to supply the retailer with a written undertaking that they regularly visit and inspect the facilities and conditions under which the hatchling stock was produced and reared and that these facilities adhered to the South African Poultry Association guidelines and principles.

Pick n Pay demanded that suppliers release the names and contact details of the hatcheries that provided them with the day-old chicks or rearing stock.

”As a retailer which strongly supports the ethical treatment of animals, Pick n Pay will not tolerate or support any supplier who does not adhere to industry standards on animal rearing,” Korb said.

”We are pleased to report that we have subsequently received responses from our suppliers, all of whom have given their written undertakings re the abovementioned points.”

He said Pick n Pay had offered, on behalf of the suppliers, to annually inspect the hatchling suppliers from whom they purchased their eggs.

Woolworths’s food director Julian Novak told Beeld that it was important that animals be treated ”humanely throughout the production process”.

He said Woolworths egg suppliers had undertaken not to use hens bred by Boskop Layer Chickens.

Beeld reported on Wednesday that up to 70 000 male birds were dumped in an empty farm dam every week and left to die, because they were ”economically worthless”.

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

If 70 000 chicks were indeed killed every week for the past 70 years, that calculates into more than 254-million chicks.

Van Zyl said sometimes it would take up to five days for the chicks to die, mainly of starvation or suffocation.

The male chicks were useless to the farmers because they could not lay eggs.

Serfontein senior is the former provincial minister for agriculture, conservation and environment in North West.

Both the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the South African Poultry Organisation are investigating the reports. — Sapa