Costco Sued By Shareholders for Systematic Neglect of Chickens

On Monday, two Costco shareholders filed a shareholder derivative complaint in the Superior Court of the State of Washington In and For King County – Seattle Division against the Costco Wholesale Corporation and its directors and officers for allegedly violating animal neglect laws through their inhumane cultivation of chickens.

According to the complaint, one of Costco’s most famous items is its low price rotisserie chickens that have stayed at the price of $4.99 despite inflation and the increased cost of production, which is only doable due to their “vertically integrated poultry production business.” The plaintiffs alleged that Costco “knowingly propagates chickens that are bred to grow so fast that many of them cannot stand under their own weight.” Then, these chickens are supposedly sent to “dirty” factories where the now-disabled chickens “slowly die from hunger, thirst, injury, and illness.” Under Nebraska and Iowa animal neglect laws, this allegedly counts as neglect as Costco is “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly leav[ing] a livestock animal in the defendant’s care, whether as owner or custodian, for any length of time, without making effective provision for the livestock animal’s feed, water, or other care.”

Since Costco has a vertically integrated poultry business, it has “control over these birds’ breeding, environment, lives, and deaths” and thus is completely responsible for these chickens, according to the plaintiffs. The complaint states that Costco’s growers have approximately 360,000 chicken at a time, “many of whom are severely injured or wounded.”

The shareholders are suing on the counts of breach of fiduciary duty to act lawfully, breach of fiduciary duty to loyalty, and ultra vires action. 

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that Costco is violating Nebraska and Iowa chicken protection laws, injunctive relief enjoining Costco from continuing to violate animal neglect laws, allowing the plaintiffs to inspect Costco’s facilities yearly, nominal damages, disbursement, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.

The plaintiffs are represented by Animal Law Offices, PLLC.