A new undercover investigation into a chicken slaughterhouse released by animal rights group Compassion Over Killing found birds drowning in electrified stun baths and indications that animals were scalded alive.
The footage, shot by an undercover investigator with the group, prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the Maryland chicken processing plant. The facility is one of 24 that the USDA allows to slaughter up to 175 birds per minute—over 1 million birds each week.
The heartbreaking video shows workers punching, shoving, and throwing birds down the rapid processing line. Dr. Sara Shields, a specialist in chicken behavior and welfare, told the Daily Mail:
Birds can be seen—still hanging from the shackles—in the water bath. … It is likely that the birds would have experienced prolonged, possibly painful electrical shock while they died of drowning. This situation is totally unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective.
Watch Compassion Over Killing’s investigation.
This past October, the Trump administration made a controversial decision to increase speeds at chicken processing plants across the country from 140 birds per minute to 175. At Amick Farms, the subject of the investigation, and other slaughterhouses operating with increased line speeds, animals and workers endure unimaginably cruel conditions.
In fact, Mercy For Animals and other animal protection organizations worked together to submit comments urging the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to deny the National Chicken Council’s petition to speed up slaughter lines, enabling slaughterhouses to kill as many birds per minute as they wanted. Line speeds are already recklessly fast, and increasing them not only endangers more animals but further threatens food and worker safety.
On average, one employee a month is injured by equipment and loses a finger or limb at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse, according to a BuzzFeed report. The injury rate for poultry slaughter workers is six times higher than the average for other industries, a statistic that is probably low, as numerous reports have found that underreporting of injuries by slaughterhouse owners is rampant.
Even more devastating is what’s at stake for these innocent animals. To slaughter 140 birds per minute, workers must grab live chickens from their transport crates and shackle them upside down by their feet at a furious pace. Chickens often suffer broken legs and other injuries in the workers’ haste.
Compassion Over Killing’s investigation confirms what advocacy groups argued last year: Faster slaughter lines result in even more abusive handling of birds, including improper shackling and failed stunning. As it is, scientists believe countless chickens are killed while fully conscious and every year in the U.S. alone over half a million birds are scalded alive in the defeathering tanks. Additionally, USDA inspection records document chickens shackled by a single leg having their flailing limbs cut off by beheading machines—also while fully conscious.
And this isn’t the first time abuse has been found in the chicken industry. A 2015 MFA investigation at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse exposed horrific cruelty, including chickens having their heads ripped off while still alive.
It’s clear the National Chicken Council doesn’t care about animals, food safety, or worker safety. The best way to end your support of an industry that puts people and animals in harm’s way is to leave all animal products off your plate.
Try out these vegan versions of your favorite chicken products instead.