The cause of fire which killed between 20,000 and 45,000 chickens at a poultry farm has been blamed by the owners on an electrical fault.
The fire at the Kinross Farms facility in Potts Lane at Carisbrook, outside of Maryborough, destroyed a 3000 square metre shed and threatened two others on November 9.
CFA firefighters managed to contain the blaze, estimated to have done $2 million damage, to the single shed.
Owner of Kinross farms Peter Szepe said around 24,000 chickens died in the fire. Animal protection group Farm Transparency Project claims the number was closer to 45,000.
Central Goldfields Shire Council mayor Chris Meddows-Taylor said he could not comment on the fire, as the council had not been provided with information by the owners. The facility sits inside the shire and had been the subject of several odour complaints.
When questioned about the fire, RSPCA Victoria said it was authorised to investigate cruelty reports relating to livestock when fewer than 10 animals are involved, with concerns for greater livestock numbers investigated by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. Agriculture Victoria said it was aware of the Carisbrook farm fire and poultry losses.
Fire authorities will investigate the cause of the conflagration.
Kinross Farms released a statement saying it took 'great pride in best practice animal husbandry applied at all its egg-laying farms across Victoria.'
"The owners and staff at Kinross Farms are genuinely devastated about the loss of hens in a barn egg-laying shed at Carisbrook caused by an accidental electrical fault.
"The local community can be assured that Kinross Farms will work quickly to properly manage the remains of the hens that were lost because of the fire and the building debris in consultation and in accordance with the EPA guidelines.
"Kinross Farms intends to rebuild the damaged shed so that normal operations can re-commence at Carisbrook as soon as possible. Kinross Farms will take whatever remedial measures are required to ensure best practice safety standards apply at Carisbrook. The local community can also be assured that Kinross Farms follows best practice animal husbandry and strictly follows animal welfare codes of practice."
Farm Transparency Project, which took video footage and photographs at the site of fire after it was extinguished, said the birds were trapped with nowhere to go.
"The eggs from this facility are marketed as 'cage-free,' but the reality is that each aisle of this massive shed functions as one large cage," said a spokesperson.
"Our investigators were equipped to rescue any survivors they might have come across, but there were none.
"Every single one of the hens here, believed to be up to 45,000, were horrifically burned alive. Their sheer terror and pain as the fire ripped through the shed is unimaginable."
Kinross Farms lost 20,000 chickens in a shed fire in Euroa in 2019, which the CFA said was not suspicious.
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