Poultry industry euthanises chickens amid riots

Problems sourcing animal feed are among the challenges due to looting, arson

Some SA farmers have had to euthanise chickens amid the chaos.
Some SA farmers have had to euthanise chickens amid the chaos.
Image: 123RF/Chayakorn Lot

The poultry industry has had to euthanise stock that could not be moved to farms across the country for placement due to the violent riots.

During the past couple of days, the industry has been beset by violent mobs of thousands of people invading farms, stealing poultry livestock and equipment, destroying infrastructure, and endangering the lives of industry employees.

“Numerous cases of arson have been recorded, and threats to burning down large poultry processing plants have been real.

“While the industry grapples with the impact of highly pathogenic bird flu, the farm invasions have destroyed all biosecurity measures present on those production units, and these flocks are now at risk of infection.

“The cost of these losses is incalculable and mounting day by day,” said Izaak Breitenbach, head of the South African Poultry Association (Sapa).

The industry’s supply chain has been severely disrupted and in some cases halted, with suppliers unable to move chicken products and other food items across the country.

Breitenbach said the poultry industry condemned in the strongest terms the spree of violence, looting and destruction of infrastructure, which would have a lasting impact on all South Africans.

“Storage capacity for frozen product at our members operations is limited, with no way of accessing frozen outside storage. To add to the challenges, the ability to move animal feed to poultry farms and other livestock sectors has been severely disrupted, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This can lead to a massive animal welfare issue for the industry. Day-old poultry stock that could not be moved to farms across the country for placement has had to be euthanised,” he added.

These acts of violence, lawlessness and looting were endangering the poultry sector that is key to food security in SA, an industry whose finances were already under enormous pressure due to high input costs, the impact of Covid-19 and hard lockdowns, and recently the bird flu outbreak, Breitenbach said.

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