School of Clinical Veterinary Science
Division of Farm Animal Science
Langford, BS40 5DU
Bristol
United Kingdom

Dr. A. B. M. Raj BVSc MVSc PhD
Phone / fax (44) 0117 928 9241
email: M.Raj@bristol.ac.uk

11th May 2007 

Mr. Nathan Runkle
Executive Director
Mercy for Animals

Dear Mr. Runkle,

Re: cruelty recorded at a turkey slaughterhouse

My credentials are:

  1. I am a veterinary scientist with specialisation in animal welfare, particularly at the time of stunning and slaughter.
  2. Published over 50 scientific papers on various methods of stunning and slaughter.
  3. Served as a member of the working group (stunning and slaughter) of the European Union Scientific Veterinary Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare.
  4. Member of the working group (stunning and slaughter) of the Scientific Panel of the European Food Safety Authority.
  5. Member of the ad hoc working group (stunning and slaughter) of the World Organisation of Animal Health.

I wish to convey my professional opinion on the contents of the video footage.

Incident 1: using live and conscious turkeys as punching bags


Hanging up side down on metal shackles is a physiologically abnormal posture for all poultry, including turkey and is painful and distressing. Under this situation, compression of their legs by metal shackle is known to be an extremely painful experience to all poultry, especially heavy turkeys. The cumulative pain and distress caused by this industrial slaughter practice lead to wing flapping, which adds to the pain, and more importantly, could lead to dislocated joints and broken bones. Under these circumstances, punching turkeys hanging on shackle line is like "rubbing salt in their wound" and the unacceptable behaviour of staff causing cruelty is a clear indication of ignorance and an overall lack of proper education and training programme in animal welfare.

Incident 2: "removal of eggs from live and conscious chickens"


Removal of eggs from live chickens by inserting hand into their rear end is an uncivilised act and amounts to unjustifiably extreme cruelty to live poultry, in my opinion.

If removal of eggs is considered to be essential for the purpose of improving quality of chicken carcasses then it should be permitted only after performing humane stunning and slaughter.

Incident 3: "standing on a turkey's leg"


This act is further evidence to causing cruelty to live turkeys due to the lack of proper animal welfare education and training to the staff involved in live bird handling at the slaughter house.

Incident 4: "throwing live chickens"


The workers do not seem to have adequate training to perform the task and, certainly, lack aptitude and attitude required to handling live poultry, in my professional opinion.

Incidents 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: "throwing live turkeys"


The workers do not seem to have adequate training to perform the task and, certainly, lack aptitude and attitude required to handling live turkeys, in my professional opinion. This repeated act of violence against live birds is a serious breach of animal welfare.

Incidents 11, 12 and 13: "body parts trapped in cages and violently pulling birds to free them"


The video clips clearly reveal trapped wings and legs of live turkeys and staff violently pulling birds to free them. The cumulative pain and stress associated with these is unacceptable and such a transport system should be considered unfit for the purpose. Several of these turkeys appear to have distorted legs and unable to walk, and therefore, the possibility that they might have broken bones or dislocated joints could not be ruled out.  

Overall, the video contains footage of inhumane and violent treatment of chickens and turkeys, which will be considered as criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Regulations in Europe. I do not know the provisions in the Animal Welfare Act of the USA however the conduct of staff certainly falls short of standard agricultural practice. I sincerely hope that the employee provides appropriate education and training to staff in order to improve welfare of birds and working conditions for the staff.

Injury and death

It is surprising to see several turkeys with severe painful injuries, e.g. broken wings, arriving at the slaughter house. Probably owing to the severity, several dead turkeys were also seen. The incidence of these reflects rough handling of turkeys during catching and crating.

Slaughter practice


Several turkeys were flapping their wings during bleeding. The possibility that some of these birds were poorly stunned and, as a consequence, recovered of consciousness during bleeding could not be eliminated.

The extent of cruelty caused to chickens and turkeys at the time of slaughter could be attributed to the lack of statutory requirement in the USA to ensuring welfare of birds at the time of slaughter.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Dr. A. B. M. Raj

House of Raeford Investigation:


    

 
 
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