(SEYMOUR) - The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is demanding a criminal investigation into the deaths of thousands of hens at the Rose Acres Farms facilities in Jackson County.
The group alleges approximately 300,000 hens died as a result of heat prostration. PETA says Rose Acres reportedly lacks enough cooling devices like those used by other facilities.
The organization has written to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office to ask for an investigation into the deaths and for criminal charges to be filed against all culpable parties if warranted
PETA maintains that failing to provide chickens with relief from 100-degree temperatures appears to constitute a knowing violation of Indiana's anti-cruelty statute.
The animal rights group add that a similar situation has happened before at Rose Acres, when a number of hens died in 1995.
"This isn't the first time that Rose Acre Farms essentially sentenced hens to a slow, painful death," says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. "PETA would like the Sheriff's Office to ensure that those responsible for these hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths recognize that birds are covered under Indiana's cruelty-to-animals law."
Our calls to Rose Acres were met with no comment, as the company's COO was unavailable. Our calls to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department were not answered before publishing.
PETA's letter to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department:
August 2, 2012
Sheriff Mike Carothers
Jackson County Sheriff's Office
Dear Sheriff Carothers:
We hope this letter finds you well. This communication serves as a request for your office to investigate and, as appropriate, bring criminal charges against Rose Acre Farms, Inc. (hereinafter, "Rose Acre"), and those responsible for reportedly depriving approximately 300,000 egg-laying hens this summer of proper care, leaving the animals to die of apparent heat stress. The animals evidently died over the course of three days at Rose Acre's Cort Acres facility, 4887 E. County Rd. 800 N., outside Seymour. The facility apparently lacks the cooling mechanisms that Rose Acre's operations in warmer climates reportedly include.
All this appears to violate IC 35-46-3-7, which provides that one who recklessly or knowingly abandons or neglects any vertebrate animal--such as a chicken--commits cruelty to an animal. See also, Reynolds v. State of Ind., 569 N.E.2d 680, 682 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), which held that a jury could properly find that a defendant neglected animals--including dogs, cats, rabbits, foxes, tarantulas, and snakes--by keeping them in an inhumanely hot environment. Given Rose Acre Chief Operating Officer Tony Wesner's reported acknowledgment that many of the company's hens died in similar conditions 17 years ago, Rose Acre could not have reasonably believed that hens were capable of surviving this year's heat without further provisions and thus are not due the defense to prosecution afforded by IC 35-46-3-7 (b).
Though Indiana law does not define the acceptable farm management practices that IC 35-46-3-5 (5) exempts from prosecution as cruelty to animals, Rose Acre's reported omission falls outside its industry's practices, established by the United Egg Producers (UEP). UEP's Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks 2010 Edition (attached) states that hen housing should be constructed and maintained to provide protection from environmental extremes and that environmental conditions within sheds should allow hens to maintain their normal body temperature. Please note that Rose Acre advertises its eggs as UEP-certified on its website.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Senior Research Associate
Cruelty Investigations Department
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