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Farmers Put Live Chickens in Wood Chippers

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Two California poultry farmers who fed some 30,000 live chickens into wood chippers will not face criminal charges because they had permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prosecutors said on Friday.
But a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States called the farmers "callous and barbaric" and disagreed with the decision not to prosecute them.

The farmers needed to destroy the chickens because they were "spent" -- or no longer able to produce eggs -- and could not make chicken soup out of them because the farms were under quarantine for the poultry virus Exotic Newcastle Disease, District Attorney's spokeswoman Gayle Stewart said.

Stewart said the men, who run a poultry farm near San Diego, asked a senior veterinarian with the Agriculture Department if they could employ the wood chippers and were given permission.

"Once they had permission we decided that they did not have any criminal intent," Stewart said.

Brothers Arie and Will Wilgenburg, who run Escondido-based Ward Poultry Farm, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Earlier, they told the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper that they were doing "what we thought we had to do" based on expert advice and stopped as soon as they learned otherwise.

Wayne Pacelle, a spokesman for the Humane Society, said that explanation was unacceptable.

"The act of feeding live chickens into a wood chipper is an extraordinarily callous and barbaric act and I can't imagine any person with a whit of common sense would use a wood chipper as a killing tool," he said. "No person with any experience in killing animals would sanction the use of this technique."