Citing the coronavirus pandemic as the cause of a 50 percent decline in its workforce, a chicken company in Delaware has decided to start “depopulating”—or killing, in horrific ways—nearly 2 million chickens.
According to its website, chicken company Allen Harim employs over 1,800 people across the Mid-Atlantic. Last week, the company sent a letter to its employees informing them that it would begin killing chickens to “reduce pressure” on the remaining workers, who cannot adhere to the CDC’s guideline to keep six feet apart in the company’s high-speed slaughterhouses.
While Allen Harim is not the only company to cut back on production—some crop farmers have been forced to let food rot in the fields—there is one huge difference: Chickens are living, feeling, breathing beings fully capable of suffering.
Approved methods for mass depopulation outlined by the American Veterinary Medical Association include a variety of agonizing techniques, such as water-based foaming, which has been used to kill entire populations during avian flu outbreaks.
Water-based foaming involves covering the birds with a layer of foam that blocks their airways, suffocating them. Research demonstrates that chickens take anywhere from one to four and a half minutes to die after they are covered. Poultry scientist Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Ontario said:
Foam is a horribly inhumane way to kill birds. You can’t tell if they are suffering or vocalizing because they are covered up.
Chickens are clever animals who pass down information from generation to generation. They can recognize more than 100 individual faces, including those of humans, and use more than 20 distinct vocalizations to communicate. They even dream!
As the pandemic continues, other companies are likely to mass slaughter their flocks as well. To address this, Mercy For Animals president Leah Garcés sent a letter to the president of the National Chicken Council and 10 of the largest chicken companies, asking them to suspend any breeding and hatching of chickens until COVID-19 has stopped spreading in slaughterhouses.
Also, in connection with our Transfarmation Project, Mercy For Animals sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, urging distribution of relief funds to farmers looking to become a solution to our broken system by transitioning to plant-based farming.
While times are challenging, the chicken and pig industries must take this opportunity to reflect. In addition to COVID-19, the chicken industry is battling the resurgence of highly pathogenic avian flu in the United States. We must act now to make systemic changes that will better protect farmers, workers, and animals from future pandemics. Specifically, taxpayer dollars should help farmers improve practices, diversify, and transition to plant-based farming—not help them slaughter animals en masse.
Join us in demanding taxpayer money not support the mass slaughter of chickens and pigs. Take action now at MercyForAnimals.org/NoSlaughterBailout.