RAMONA, Calif. - Disturbing video obtained by Team 10 that appeared to detail brutal practices at a Ramona egg farm may lead to criminal charges.
San Diego County Animal Services has referred the case to the District Attorney’s office, recommending charges of animal cruelty against a 56-year-old farm worker.
In the nearly three-minute clip, a male worker is seen walking near white pile at the Pine Hill Egg Ranch.
The pile is a mound of countless dead hens, and the man wielding a giant stick appears determined to make sure all are dead.
In the video, the worker takes aim and strikes the chickens repeatedly.
A person who lives near the 40-year-old ranch in Ramona shot the video and shared it with Team 10.
When the hens' egg-laying rate slows, hens are routinely euthanized on egg farms. In this case, the hens were gassed with carbon dioxide -- an accepted method -- but not all of them died.
In the video, the worker's solution includes chasing a small group of hens and swinging at them with the stick. At the chicken pile, he is seen swinging repeatedly at chickens still moving.
After we aired our story, San Diego County Animal Services started a criminal investigation into the matter.
"Referring the case for charges is good news," said Bryan Pease, the director of the Animal Protection and Rescue League. "For their entire lives, these hens have been crammed into tiny wire cages where they could not move or turn around and now for the first time, they are let out … feel sunshine and the ground under their feet … and they're being chased around by a man who's trying to bludgeon them to death. If this doesn't fit the criteria for animal cruelty, I don't know what would."
Investigators say neither there is no evidence the owners of the ranch or the owner of the company contracted to euthanize the chickens knew of the worker's actions.
Prosecutors must now determine if they will file charges and if they do, whether it will be a misdemeanor or felony. If it is a felony, the worker would face up to three years in prison. Because he has not been charged yet, his name has not been released.