An Australian egg farmer has been convicted of serious animal cruelty, after authorities had to kill more than 4,000 hens he was keeping as they were all infected with a highly infectious disease, according to reports.
Shaun Stone was found guilty following an RSPCA inspection last year, after a complaint prompted the welfarist organization along with police, an expert avian veterinarian and Local Land Services district veterinarian, to visit his Lakesland farm. They found around 4,000 ill hens and 1,000 dead ones in a shed.
As a result, Stone has been banned from keeping any animals for five years, fined $6,500, and placed on a 16-month community corrections order. There is no custodial sentence.
Hens were killed
According to the RSPCA, most of the live hens were 'underweight to emaciated'. In addition, all had severe lice infestations and 'appeared to be hungry and very thirsty, spending most of the time attempting to drink from the nipple drinkers and search for food'.
All of the animals were infected with a highly contagious respiratory disease called Infectious Laryngotracheitis - leading authorities to slaughter every one of them.
The shed where the birds were kept was also identified as a problem, with RSPCA inspectors saying the ventilation was poor, and feeders and water pipes were broken. In addition, 'dangerous wire causing the birds to become trapped and the deceased bodies left to decompose amongst the hens'.
Stone admitted to the RSPCA that he had attempted put the chickens into a 'forced molt'. According to the RSPCA: "Sometimes commercial hens are put through a process of 'forced molting' which extends their ability to produce eggs. Molting is a natural process, allowing hens' bodies to rest and rebuild bone strength. In commercial systems however, molting is carried out using feed withdrawal or non-feed withdrawal methods. Particularly for those birds that have feed withdrawn (for a period up to 2 weeks), forced molting is a serious welfare issue."
While Stone said this pratice is 'common in the industry', Deputy Chief Inspector of RSPCA NSW, Aaron Purcell countered that 'failing to provide proper and sufficient food is illegal'.