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KFC Supplier Accused of Animal Cruelty

An animal rights group involved in a long legal dispute with Kentucky Fried Chicken about the treatment of the 700 million chickens it buys each year is to release a videotape today showing slaughterhouse workers for one supplier jumping up and down on live chickens, drop-kicking them like footballs and slamming them into walls, apparently for fun.
After officials of the KFC Corporation saw the videotape yesterday, they said they would seek dismissal of the workers, inspect the slaughterhouse more often and end their relationship if the cruelty was repeated. The company that owns the slaughterhouse, the Pilgrim's Pride Corporation, the country's second-largest poultry processor, said it was "appalled" by the tape.

Animal rights groups have long complained that sheer malicious behavior - on top of the expected confinement and bloodletting - goes on in slaughter plants, but this is the first time such graphic proof has been produced. The tape was taken surreptitiously by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who worked from October 2003 to May 2004 at a Pilgrim's Pride plant in Moorefield, W.Va., that won KFC's "Supplier of the Year" award in 1997.

KFC and its parent, Yum Brands, have repeatedly committed themselves to a promise that all suppliers would treat animals humanely. Yesterday, a spokeswoman for KFC said the company "wouldn't tolerate the type of behavior in the video."

KFC "will require that the employee or employees responsible be terminated," said Bonnie Warschauer, director of public relations, and further violations will "result in termination of our relationship."

Prominent veterinarians, including those on the company's animal welfare advisory board, called for shutting the plant and dismissing or prosecuting its managers. Dr. Ian J. H. Duncan, an animal and poultry science professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, who is a KFC adviser, said the tape "contains some of the worst scenes of animal cruelty that I have ever witnessed."

A Pilgrim's Pride spokesman said the company had an anonymous report about poultry mistreatment at the plant in April and had made it clear to its workers that "any such behavior would result in immediate termination." In light of the tape, the company said, it will reopen its investigation.

The tape includes loud music the workers listen to, the screeching of the birds and the sound of each hitting the wall. When released, it will be on a Web site of the animal-rights group, which is known as PETA, at kentuckyfriedcruelty.com.

The undercover investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation and still does undercover work for the group, said in a telephone interview that he saw "hundreds" of acts of cruelty, including workers tearing beaks off, ripping a bird's head off to write graffiti in blood, spitting tobacco juice into birds' mouths, plucking feathers to "make it snow," suffocating a chicken by tying a latex glove over its head, and squeezing birds like water balloons to spray feces over other birds.

He said the behavior was "to alleviate boredom or vent frustrations," especially when so many birds were coming in that they would have to work late.

On April 6, one day he filmed, workers made a game of throwing chickens against a wall; 114 were thrown in seven minutes. A supervisor walking past the pile of birds on the floor said, "Hold your fire," and, once out of the way, told the crew to "carry on."

On another day, he said, the supervisor told the crew to kill correctly because inspectors were visiting.

To document cruelty and position his tiny camera, he said, he spent eight months working in the "hang pen," where workers attach newly arrived chickens by their feet to a conveyor that carries them upside-down through an electrified "stun bath" and then into the whirling blades of the throat-cutting machine.

KFC says all its suppliers train their workers in animal welfare, but the investigator said Pilgrim's Pride had nothing on the topic in its orientation manual and the only instruction he received was after five months, and then only in how to wring a chicken's neck by hand. The Web site of Pilgrim's Pride does not note any animal welfare policy.

Last year, PETA sued Kentucky Fried Chicken and called for a boycott, demanding that it require its suppliers to give chickens more room in factory barns, stop forcing growth so rapid that it cripples birds, and to gas birds before hanging them so they feel no pain.

The group has won similar concessions from Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's.

Yum Brands did not do as PETA requested, but its KFC Web site says the company is "committed to the humane treatment of animals." It describes steps taken to assure such treatment, including creating an advisory council and promising to "only deal with suppliers who provide an environment that is free from cruelty, abuse and neglect."

Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known veterinary scientist who designs plants for humane slaughter, called the behavior shown on the videotape "absolutely atrocious."

Dr. Grandin is on KFC's animal welfare advisory board, but said PETA had not told her when it sent her the tape this month where it had been taken. "They need to fire the plant manager," she said.

Both Ms. Warschauer of KFC and a spokesman for Pilgrim's Pride said they would ask Dr. Grandin to visit the plant.

PETA said it planned to ask a West Virginia prosecutor to prosecute plant employees and managers under state laws that make torture or malicious killing of animals a felony. It has also written to KFC and Pilgrim's Pride, asking them to use gas to knock the animals out before they are killed and to mount video cameras to forestall employee cruelty.

The PETA investigator said he would testify, calling it "the right thing to do."

Several American and British veterinary experts to whom PETA sent the videotape expressed disgust.

"I have visited many poultry slaughterhouses but I have never seen cruelty to chickens to the extent shown in this video," said Dr. Donald M. Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University and chairman of the European Union's animal welfare scientific committee. "It would be grounds for a successful prosecution for cruelty to animals in most countries."

Chicken shit! 21.Jul.2004 22:34

Red neck

There's a lot more to this story than "bad workers".
I have friends who have been really down and out,who have taken jobs at chicken processing plants. None of them lasted very long,the general consensus is they would rather sleep under a bridge.

You can imagine that people working under these conditions wouldn't have much compassion for chickens. This is sort of like,no it's just like going to the infamous turn-of-the-century Chicago slaughterhouse to see if the pigs are being treated humanly.

"Like most workers in poultry processing, Senora Mo˝tez stands for hours at her place on a production line. Chickens, impaled on hooks hanging from a chain which moves the carcasses around the processing area, pass in front of her at a speed which, in a large part, determines the profitability of the operation. The atmosphere is noisy and damp. The floor is wet and the chickens drip on everything and everyone. The moisture contains many chemicals and biological contaminants. Each room is colder than the last as the temperature of the chickens is cooled from "live" to "packed." Processing involves killing, gutting, cutting, sorting, weighing, and packaging at an urgent pace. One's task is performed hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand times, per shift, often with sharp blades."
 http://www.southerncouncil.org/comm/soch/sc231.html

"The chicks grow into chickens, then the day of motion arrives. "Chicken catchers" men who round up flocks by hand wade into the long, low houses where the birds are raised. The "housemen" erects a temporary pen with a plastic tarp, then tightens the perimeter as the catchers move in. They capture as many as 50,000 chickens in an 8-to-12-hour shift, lifting three and four at a time in each hand, cramming the birds into steel cages known as "the hole."
 http://www.nicwj.org/main.html
 http://www.nicwj.org/industry/chicken_catchers.html

"In a dark chamber inside, workers hang the birds on
metal hooks, upside down by their feet. Down the
line they roll, hundreds of birds a minute. Bursts
of electricity stun them, then the conveyor line
runs necks past blades for the kill. Blood drips
into tanks the size of wading pools"
 http://www.nicwj.org/wpost2.html

This shows just how incredible brutal and ridicules the media has become, going after "chicken catchers" between diarrhea commercials.
Perdue worker
Perdue worker

i worked at a chicken plant 23.Jul.2004 22:57

clamydia

when I was a lot younger and very ignorant. I've learned a lot of things since then. One thing I've learned is that just because the people directly responsible for a bad thing might not be completely responsible for their actions because of the social pressure upon them to accomplish those bad things, that still doesn't mean that it's ok for that thing to continue to happen. Just because these chicken plant workers are just poor joe/jane schmoes doesn't mean we have to be like "oh, well since they don't KNOW any better, we should just forget about the whole thing and go back to business as usual". No. Huh uh. That's not how it works. When you see injustice, you stop it. And if you really want to stop something and you can't convince it to stop of its own accord, then you are eventually going to have to get in its way or put something in its way.

An extension 29.Jul.2004 15:23

David Usher ushdoggy@hotmail.com

Just an extension onto what has been said. If these cruelties are "unacceptable" and there are no true ways to stop them, then why is it so far fetched to call on people to make humane choices and stop eating meat? Perhaps it is easy to say it is wrong but much harder to be the one who IS wrong.

Dave

Why can't people have some compassion for animals? 23.Jul.2006 21:47

Anonymous

Why can't people have some COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS and stop eating meat. It is not hard to be vegetarian. It digusts me how most people eat meat and do not care about the animals raised for food who suffer terribly. Could they live much worse lives?

Abuse of animals is so bad at slaughterhouses you need an animal welfare inspector to be present at all times to ensure this does not happen.