Tyson Foods: Stop Crippling Birds with Rapid Growth!
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Poultry industry titan Tyson Foods has long touted its “Commitment to Animal Well-Being” and claims to “understand the importance of the internationally-recognized Five Freedoms” for chickens. Yet from the moment I first set foot inside Atlantic Farm, a Tyson Foods contract facility in Temperanceville, Virginia, as an undercover investigator for Compassion Over Killing (COK), I witnessed a very different reality: Behind the closed doors of this factory farm’s filthy warehouses, packed with more than 225,000 chickens, I documented violent animal abuse as well as horrific suffering caused by Tyson’s genetic manipulation of birds for unnaturally fast growth.
At just days old, fragile baby birds are dumped into these sheds, where they live out their short lives—never to peck outside in the dirt or feel the sun’s warmth—before being shipped out to slaughter at just 6 weeks old. The hidden horrors I witnessed inside this massive Tyson factory farm still haunt me: birds run over and crushed to death by forklifts; live birds violently kicked, slammed, and thrown; and baby chicks impaled with a metal nail on the end of a pipe. Unwanted, sick, or injured birds were also piled on top of one another in buckets with the dead, left to languish and die.
But the suffering ran even deeper than this sickening abuse. Birds languished from a variety of illnesses and deformities, and many couldn’t walk because of debilitating leg injuries. At under two months old, these baby birds were already crippled—and trapped inside their own morbidly obese bodies—because Tyson genetically manipulates them to grow so unnaturally large, extremely quickly. If you or I grew at the rate of a factory farmed chicken, we’d weigh 660 pounds by the time we reached two months of age!
This is the second time in a year and a half that COK has exposed Tyson’s torture. In 2016, a COK investigation inside multiple Tyson Foods breeder farms in Virginia revealed similar violence: workers punching, kicking, and throwing live birds; birds crushed by forklifts; and more. The footage prompted the first-ever court trials for cruelty to chickens raised for meat, resulting in convictions on 24 counts of animal cruelty. And Tyson immediately ended the barbaric practice of stabbing a plastic nose “bone” through the nostrils of rapidly growing male breeder birds to restrict their feed intake.
Yet while Tyson pats itself on the back for its “commitment to serve as stewards of the animals,” this poultry giant has not addressed a major source of this immense suffering: the crippling fast-paced growth of birds.
Tyson publicly strives to “shape the future of food”—but it remains firmly entrenched in this tradition of torture to churn out cheap, cruelly produced meat. Meanwhile, millions of consumers are waking up to the suffering and flocking to plant-based dining. Even Tyson CEO Tom Hayes has acknowledged that consumer demand for plant proteins is outpacing that of meat, and the company has purchased a 5 percent stake in vegan company Beyond Meat.
But that first step isn’t enough. It’s way past time for Tyson to distance itself from these preventable atrocities once and for all.
Join me in urging Tyson to put an end to the genetic manipulation of birds for fast growth and to truly become a food industry leader by moving toward the real future of food: plant-based protein!
“Alex” (Compassion Over Killing undercover investigator)
December 2017 UPDATE: Just a day after my investigation was publicly released and we asked you to urge Tyson to invest more in plant-based meat, the company announced that it's doing just that: The poultry giant is increasing its existing 5-percent stake in plant protein maker Beyond Meat. This is a promising step forward, but we still need your support to ensure the company keeps moving in this direction—and finally addresses the horrific suffering resulting from its genetic manipulation of birds for rapid growth.
- Tyson Foods
- President and CEO, Tyson Foods
- Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Tyson Foods
- Group President, Poultry, Tyson Foods
- Chief Customer Officer, Tyson Foods
- Senior Director of Public Relations, Tyson Foods
I was appalled to learn that in little more than a year, Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest poultry producer, has been exposed for sickening violence and extreme suffering not just once, but by two separate Compassion Over Killing investigations.
Inside Virginia Tyson contractor Atlantic Farm, COK’s investigator documented birds being run over and crushed to death by forklifts; live birds violently kicked, slammed, and thrown; and baby chicks impaled with a metal nail on the end of a pipe. Birds also languished from a variety of illnesses and deformities, while many more couldn’t even walk because their fragile legs collapsed under their weight.
And hundreds of millions more two-month-old birds like them are trapped inside their own morbidly obese bodies in your supply chains because they are genetically manipulated to grow so unnaturally large, so quickly in order to mass-produce cheap meat.
Although Tyson ended the barbaric practice of stabbing “nose bones” through breeder birds’ nostrils to restrict feed intake, in response to COK’s 2016 investigation video, it has yet to address a root cause of this suffering: rapid growth that leads to crippling leg deformities, severe heart and lung stress, and even death.
While Tyson remains entrenched in this tradition of torture, consumers are flocking away from cruelty and toward plant-based dining, which was recently named the 2018 trend of the year by international restaurant consultant firm Baum + Whiteman, citing factors like a 257% increase between 2012 and 2016 in vegan-labeled products at grocery stores. Mr. Hayes has even recognized that the demand for plant-based foods is outpacing that of meat.
Just after COK’s investigation was released, you announced plans to increase your previous 5-percent stake in Beyond Meat. While this is a major step forward, it isn’t enough. If Tyson truly wants to “shape the future of food,” it must put an end to the atrocities resulting from genetic manipulation of birds—and become a real industry leader by continuing to move toward cruelty-free plant-based protein.
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