In the wake of a string of attacks on South Carolina chickens farms that have left more than 300,000 chickens dead, Pilgrim’s Pride is offering a $50,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the vandals.
The attacks have occurred at night, when the perpetrators have raised the temperature controls on the chicken houses, causing the birds in the houses to die by freezing or overheating. According to the Denver Post, someone familiar with the mechanics of chicken houses is responsible.
"(With) the chicks, you have to maintain the temperature at 95 to 100 degrees, and when they get older, it's 65 to 70 degrees," said Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett. "(The suspect) knows what to do with the temperature setting needed to maintain 70 degrees and he is turning it up and killing them."
All of the farms affected are growers for Pilgrim’s Pride. Those birds are processed at a facility in Sumter, S.C.
"Pilgrim's was recently made aware of several unfortunate and deliberate acts of vandalism at the operations of some of our contract grower partners in Clarendon County, S.C.," Randy Stroud, Pilgrim's Pride's live operations manager said in a statement Friday. "These heinous acts resulted in a cruel death for several thousand chickens that were under the care of dedicated family farmers."
The Washington Post suggests that revenge may be a factor in the attacks. Garrett said that chicken catchers and electricians would have the knowledge to tamper with the temperature control systems. He added that farmers told investigators that Pilgrim’s Pride had recently declined to renew long-standing contracts with electricians and catchers at some Clarendon County farms.
“Contracts that had been going on for some 20 some-odd years were terminated,” Garrett told the Post. “Therein lies a good motive to get back at this company. The unfortunate thing is that the farmers in Clarendon County have suffered as well.”