Former provincial minister denies animal-cruelty claims

A former provincial minister of agriculture embroiled in a chick-killing saga has denied animal-cruelty claims alleging he left his chicks to starve to death.

“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 minister.

“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 to lions],” Gibbens told the South African Press Association (Sapa).

He said the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (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 the Serfonteins allowed them on to the premises.

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

M-Net’s Carte Blanche current affairs show broadcast a second programme on the alleged cruelty on Sunday evening.

“The report on Carte Blanche 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.

Last week, Beeld reported that animal rights groups were up in arms over allegedly 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 every week and left to die, 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.

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

However, Gibbens told Sapa the numbers were incorrect and the Serfonteins had only been operating the farm for five years.

“If the number of chicks they say were dumped, there would have been a mountain of chicks,” said Gibbens.

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.—Sapa

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