May 13, 2007
To Whomever it May Concern:
I am writing in response to the video sent to me evidencing worker handling at a turkey processing plant. Let me state at the outset that I am not an expert on turkeys and have never been to a turkey plant. I have, however, been to chicken plants and am well-known internationally for my 30 years of work in animal welfare. I was a major architect of federal laws protecting laboratory animals, and have done two books on farm animal welfare. I serve on the Pew commission examining confined animal feeding operations, have lectured to farmers and animal scientists all over the world, and have entered into an agreement with the pork industry to help define ethical practices. I have served as an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the US and abroad.
The footage I saw paradigmatically fits the classical definition of cruelty embodies in US state laws, in that the animals are subjected to willful, sadistic, purposeless, unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering not essential to, and indeed inimical to, smooth and humane processing of birds. Punching the hanging animals is a clear example, as are flinging the birds, deliberately injuring the birds, kicking them, ignoring injured animals, and, of course, ripping a bird's head off.
All of the incidents depicted evidence that the culture of the plant in question is pathological and unacceptable, that workers are not punished for acts of abuse, or untrained, and that management is either non-existent or incompetent. I have seen many cases where animal use is corrupted and sullied by a culture of cruelty, even though such treatment can have deleterious economic consequences.
In today's world, societal concern for animal treatment, including the treatment of animals killed for food, is at an all-time high. This explains, for example, Smithfield's decision to phase out sow gestation stalls. I am in fact working with one poultry company and one pork company to develop more humane slaughter methods. Thus what is depicted in this video is clearly socially unacceptable, since it is gratuitous and counterproductive. In my view, this plant should be shut down until it can be run humanely and properly.
Bernard E Rollin, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University
Professor of Philosophy
Professor of Animal Sciences
Professor of Biomedical Sciences