Poultry workers reportedly wept as they carried out their grim task -- overseeing the death of about 400 thousand newborn chicks by drowning them in water or simply dumping them in rusty barrels outside where they would succumb to the freezing winter air. Around 600,000 more birds, housed at Russia's Krasnaya Polyana poultry farm have died of malnutrition, and the lives of 3 million others await a similar fate. A $190,000 tax debt, says the farm, has forced them to declare bankruptcy, leading to this killing of chickens on a horrific scale.The poultry farm, located in the region of Kursk, is owned by Russian parliament member Alexander Chetverikov -- and he says declaring bankruptcy, which has forced the deaths of about 1 million chickens, was his only recourse after he became the target of a political conspiracy aimed at putting him in financial ruin.
Chetverikov, a member of the JustRussia party, says he ran a campaign to fight corruption in the region's leading United Russia-lead government -- and that, "they were looking for a possibility to settle their political and personal scores with me."
But while the politician's finances may have fallen victim to some shady political dealings, the millions of birds at his are the ones truly paying the price. Chetverikov explains, to The Los Angeles Times:
We can't afford to feed the chickens any more, as we have no money, and we will continue to eliminate the remaining 3 million chickens if the unfair bankruptcy situation is not eased and the state doesn't come to our rescue.
The local government disagrees, claiming that their claims against Chetverikov are legitimate, and that his company owes nearly $190,000 in back taxes.
With bankruptcy, the poultry farm has been ordered to eliminate its remaining birds, hundreds of thousands of baby chicks, before they grow enough into adulthood. But the farm's employees, mostly woman earning a few hundred dollars a month, the task of killing so many birds is sickening.
"It's like a mother killed her children," said one worker as she brought a crate of baby chicks to meet their fate.
According to farm spokesman, Dmitry Noskoff, it was decided that the chickens be disposed of swiftly, instead of letting them slowly starve to death after feed stopped arriving. Baby chicks were dumped into barrels outside in the winter air before water was added to drown them. Adult birds were thrown into a pit and buried alive with a tractor.
Hoping to spare some of the chickens, workers tried selling them and even offering them for free to families in the area, but there's just not enough people nearby to accept more than a small fraction of the fated animals.
Farm operators even tried appealing to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for help, but got no response. When asked, even the members of the country's Agriculture Ministry failed to see why such inhumane measures were being carried out. "This is the first time I've heard of this problem," Vasily Mezhevikin, of food industry department, told The Los Angeles Times. "I don't understand why they are killing their poultry and not selling it to the population as they should."
There is, of course, a human toll to the bankruptcy as well; the farm's closure will result in hundreds of layoffs -- but the memory of their final task may haunt them even longer than their unemployment. "It was breaking my heart seeing the little ones die like this in the frost," said poultry worker Svetlana Grivko. "We worked round the clock to keep them healthy and comfortable and now we are killing them with our own hands."