Computer bug in temperature and airflow control systems killed over 27,000 chickens

A technology company was fined more than $55,000 USD after an investigation concluded that the deaths of some 27,000 chickens were caused by a malfunction in computer systems installed on a farm. In their report, Leicestershire county authorities mention that the birds died at Hose Lodge Farm, in Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom, in May 2020.

The chickens were in a shed like any other day, until one of the ventilation systems on the farm began to fail. Hudson & Sanders Limited, the firm in charge of these systems, admitted four charges under the Animal Welfare Act, so it will have to pay the fine established by the authorities.

At the time the failures in these systems happened, there were about 50,000 chickens in the shed. As soon as the systems that regulate the airflow failed, the chickens began to suffer from the lack of oxygen.

In addition, the entrances to the sides of the shed were closed, completely sealing the tens of thousands of birds on the farm. As if that were not enough, an alarm that should have sounded if the temperature exceeded 81°F also failed, giving the alert until the temperature was above 99°F.

So far the exact causes of the incident are unknown, although it seems that the authorities ruled out a possible cyberattack.

By the time staff was able to enter the shed, 27,249 of the chickens raised on the farm had already died. Local authorities concluded that the company did not ensure that there were enough staff to care for the chickens, plus the few employees there were not qualified to detect flaws in their systems.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency had already visited the farm a year earlier, expressing concern about the lack of trained staff and seemingly dysfunctional facilities. District Judge Nick Watson fined the company £44,000, and they will have to pay county council costs (£12,634) and a victim surcharge (£190).

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