Tell the USDA to Halt High-Speed Slaughter Horrors!
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Most chicken slaughter plants in the US kill up to 140 birds each minute. That’s more than two birds every single second. I’d seen the haunting footage, and I knew that even at these speeds, suffering is rampant. But then I worked undercover for Compassion Over Killing (COK) inside an Amick Farms slaughterhouse, which operates under a dangerous USDA high-speed slaughter program, where many government inspection duties are placed in the hands of the plant itself. At Amick Farms, birds are killed at a reckless pace, putting their welfare, along with workers and consumers, at risk. The cruelty I documented inside this high-speed house of horrors was a living nightmare.
At Amick, which kills more than one million birds per week, violence and critical errors were rampant as workers struggled to keep up. I saw birds being punched, shoved, and thrown down the recklessly fast-paced kill line. Other birds slowly drowned in the electrified stunning baths during equipment breakdowns. I also captured footage of “red birds,” with blood visible under their skin—a sign that they were scalded alive.
Throughout the chicken industry, birds endure egregious abuse, severe overcrowding, filthy conditions, and the crippling effects of unnaturally rapid growth—all before being trucked, sometimes for several hours, through all weather extremes to a gruesome death. And even at the already staggering rate of 140 birds killed per minute at most slaughterhouses, workers are forced to keep birds moving down the rapidly running kill line as quickly as possible, risking their own safety and animal welfare. At even higher speeds, these dangers are alarmingly exacerbated.
Amick is one of 24 chicken plants that the USDA allows to run at these incredibly high speeds. The National Chicken Council recently petitioned the USDA to completely eliminate any speed caps for plants nationwide—and although the USDA denied that request after hearing from more than 100,000 concerned consumers, it is now granting waivers to individual plants to run at up to 175 birds per minute, like at Amick Farms. Up until recently, there were 20 increased speed plants, but the government just handed out four more individual waivers, with plans to give out more.
At such speeds, animals can endure even greater suffering. Not only do machines break down, trapping birds in electrified water baths where they drown, but workers are forced to take inhumane and dangerous shortcuts to maintain the fast pace, often causing harm to themselves in the process too. Working at Amick even for just a short time, my knuckles were swollen and my hands were in constant pain. I couldn’t close my hands, and my fingers would not touch when extended. In the filthy and fast-paced assembly-line environment, many workers also removed their shirts in the extreme heat, putting themselves at further risk as they operated dangerous machinery without even basic protection.
This is the second time in just a few years that a COK investigation has exposed the horrors of high-speed slaughter, yet instead of abolishing this inhumane and dangerous program, the USDA drives it forward.
In late 2015, a COK investigator worked inside Quality Pork Processors, a high-speed pig slaughter plant supplying Hormel Foods, revealing pigs shocked, dragged, and pulled to the kill floor; pigs covered in feces and pus-filled abscesses processed for human consumption with a USDA seal of approval; and much more. COK has since hand-delivered over a quarter million signatures against high-speed slaughter to the USDA’s offices.
Slaughterhouses are already hell on earth for birds, who aren’t even afforded the minimal protections granted to other animals under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). And now, instead of taking steps to reduce the suffering of these animals, the USDA wants to speed up kill lines to boost industry profits under the guise of “modernization.”
Please join me in urging the USDA to put the brakes on cruel and reckless high-speed slaughter today—and instead grant these birds bare minimum protections under federal law.
Undercover Investigator, Compassion Over Killing
P.S. The easiest way you can protect chickens, and all animals, from this abuse is to try healthy and delicious vegan eating. Click here to get started!
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