A Wellington poultry company has been fined $20,000 and its owner disqualified from owning birds for 10 years for cruelty to chickens.
The Wellington SPCA pursued charges against the company after finding its birds in a "hellish environment", with dead and live birds in the same cages and sick birds being trampled by healthier ones.
Wellington Egg Company and its director Trevor Soon Chin pleaded guilty to several charges of animal cruelty and were sentenced yesterday in the Wellington District Court.
The company was fined $20,000 for four charges of failing to supply adequate shelter or water and was disqualified from owning or being in charge of birds for 10 years.
Chin was sentenced to 400 hours' community service and disqualified from owning birds for 10 years for charges of ill treating animals.
The judge said during sentencing that Chin's management of the farm was hopeless and hapless and told him that as he did not have experience of managing a battery chicken farm, he should have employed someone who did.
It was New Zealand's first prosecution of a battery chicken farm for breaches of the minimum code of standards under the Animal Welfare Act.
SPCA senior animal welfare inspector Ritchie Dawson said the minimum code of standards allowed for chickens raised in battery farms to be kept in cages with almost no room to move.
"The combination of these small cages and Mr Chin's incredibly poor animal management practices led to a hellish environment for these chickens."
Wellington SPCA visited the farm after a complaint from a member of the public. On arrival, its staff found the battery chickens housed within the sheds in extremely poor conditions:
* Dead birds were decaying in cages where live birds were also living.
* The water supply to the birds was intermittent at best, with some birds having no water at all.
* Birds whose heads had become trapped between the bars of the cages were left to die.
* There were many sick birds no longer able to stand which were being slowly trampled to death by the other birds in their cage.
* Cats and rats were found living in the sheds among the chickens.