Authorities in South Carolina have reported at least 16 attacks on chicken farms over the last two weeks, causing the deaths of an estimated 300,000 chickens and cost the farmers about $1.7 million. According to The State, all of the attacks have been against farmers who raise chickens for Pilgrim’s Pride, though they do not think the company is being targeted.

Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett said someone familiar with alarm systems used in chicken houses is responsible. Those alarms also control the heat, air conditioning and ventilation units and notify farmers by cell phone when buildings get too hot or cold. Chickens can die in about an hour if the ventilation and heating systems are turned off.

At a farm belonging to 81-year-old W.L. Coker, the temperature in eight chicken houses was turned up to 115 degrees, and the ventilation was shut off. The sabotage wasn’t noticed until a farm worker came to work at 7 a.m. the next morning. By then, about 200,000 chickens had died. Only about 500 birds had survived.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” said Coker, who did not want to give his farm’s location in fear of risking another attack. “They roasted them. If they get too hot they die. I hate for them to be destroyed like that.”

Pilgrim’s Pride officials said in a statement that the attacks showed a “blatant disregard for the welfare of the chickens and the livelihood of the family farmers involved.” They declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Source: The State