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€50k fine for farm after computer malfunction kills 27,000 chickens

Judge hands £44,000 fine to poultry farm

A poultry farm has been fined £44,000 (over €50,000) after a computer malfunction in a broiler shed ventilation system caused the death of more than 27,000 chickens.

Hudson & Sanders Limited appeared before Leicester Magistrates Court in the UK on Wednesday, April 27th, 2022.

The company pleaded guilty to four charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 after the birds died at a farm near Melton Mowbray in the UK.

Leicestershire County Council’s Trading Standards Service prosecuted the company.

The court heard that some 50,000 chickens were in a large shed at Hose Lodge Farm in Colston Bassett when, on May 26th, 2020, the systems that regulated airflow, vital for the welfare of the chickens, failed.

The court heard that inlets on the side of the building closed during a rest period for the birds in the afternoon. However, another tunnel ventilation system failed to open, creating a sealed unit.

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High temperatures 

On what was a warm day, the temperature within the shed “rose rapidly”.

The court heard that the birds could not cool down because of the ventilation failure. As a result, this caused heat stress, suffering and death.

An alarm sounded when the temperature rose to 37 degrees, and staff were alerted. However, council investigators discovered that it should have been set to go off at 27 degrees.

At the time of the incident, the farm manager was on leave but still attended as he lived on-site.

A relief manager that Hudson & Sanders LTD. had provided had left the site to take a break when the incident arose.

By the time staff could gain access to the building, 27,249 chickens had died.

The council prosecuted the company for “being negligent in its care of the birds”, which were being farmed for their meat.

Trading standards also said the company had failed to ensure there were enough staff to look after the chickens.

Furthermore, it stated that they were not trained to the level they needed to be. Therefore, this led to a situation where they “did not know what to do in time”.

Staff and ventilation  

The county council argued the offence was aggravated because an APHA vet had visited the farm in November 2019. They had previously raised concerns about there not being sufficient staff or a ventilation plan.

District Judge Nick Watson described the May 26th incident as “a disaster”. The judge added that those birds that survived would also have suffered.

He ordered the firm to pay £56,634.83: £44,000 in fines and the county council’s costs of £12,634.83.

In mitigation, solicitors for the defendant said the company, which managed poultry operation on behalf of the farm’s owner, regretted the incident.

The court heard Hudson & Sanders Limited had no previous conviction for animal welfare offences and had an “otherwise excellent reputation” in the industry.

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