SAN DIEGO (AP) – Two poultry farmers who instructed workers to destroy thousands of chickens by throwing them into wood chippers amid a disease outbreak should face cruelty charges, animal rights advocates said.

Prosecutors decided last week that brothers Arie and Bill Wilgenburg had no criminal intent, but animal rights groups want charges reconsidered.

Wood chippers are one of many methods used for mass euthanasia in the industry and the brothers were acting on the advice of a veterinarian, prosecutor Elizabeth Silva said.

“It’s cruel and it’s callous, but it’s part of any animal husbandry operation,” she said.

The Wilgenburgs were banned from moving aging, unproductive hens from their ranches in due to a quarantine for exotic Newcastle disease, a virus which has forced California ranchers to slaughter nearly 3.4 million birds since October.

The quarantine restricts the movement of poultry in seven Southern California counties.

The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in a letter Tuesday to reconsider the decision not to file cruelty charges.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman said that Dumanis was “very troubled” by the case and has asked for a full briefing on why it was rejected.

AP-ES-04-16-03 1900EDT

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