People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone with information that will lead to an arrest in the recent killings of more than 300,000 chickens in Clarendon and surrounding counties.
Dan Paden, an evidence analysis manager with the organization, said while PETA does not agree with how the chickens are housed and treated in farms in contract with Pilgrim's Pride, the group does believe whoever is responsible for the death of the chickens’ should answer for it.
“We fight to save animals from horrible deaths,” Paden said. “We have been inundated with calls and emails from not just South Carolina, but from Canada and the U.S., from people who want to see justice in this case.”
PETA senior director Martin Mersereau urged in a statement that anyone with information come forward now to prevent any more chickens from being “roasted alive.”
“Someone out there is responsible for adding to the misery of birds who suffer on factory farms like these,” Mersereau said.
So far, 16 farms in Clarendon, Florence and Sumter counties have been attacked, resulting in nearly $2 million in losses. Each of the victimized farms raise chickens for Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s largest poultry producer, law enforcement officials said. Officials have not said why they think Pilgrim’s Pride and its contract farms are 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.
Federal officials, SLED agents and officers from Clarendon, Sumter and Florence counties are among those involved in the investigation.