California-based non-profit Mercy for Animals has filed a petition with the USDA demanding that the humane slaughter of poultry be regulated by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The 1958 Act currently only pertains to larger livestock such as cattle and hogs.
Mercy for Animals argues that the exclusion of poultry from this law has allowed instances of inhumane treatment in chicken processing plants to go unpunished, according to the Washington Post.
Video obtained by Mercy for Animals show myriad humane slaughter violations in chicken processing plants, including workers ripping heads off of the birds or otherwise brutalizing their bodies. A 2015 essay in the New York Times revealed some of the normalized inhumane treatment in these facilities via testimony from a Mercy for Animals undercover investigator; during the two months he spent in a North Carolina poultry slaughterhouse, the investigator tells the Times, he “routinely” saw personnel breaking the bones of live chickens and scalding them to death.
“Chickens, turkeys and other birds are every bit as capable of experiencing pain and suffering as the cows, pigs and sheep who are protected under the humane-slaughter act, and it simply makes no sense to exclude these animals from equal protection under the law,” says Vandhana Bala, an attorney for Mercy For Animals.
The National Chicken Council responded to the petition by noting that chicken slaughter is already regulated by USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service thanks to the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.
“These regulations address poultry slaughter, and government inspectors are present for the slaughter process in every poultry processing plant,” says the NCC. “Trying to shoehorn chicken harvesting into the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act could significantly compromise chicken welfare.”
Nearly 9 billion chickens, 243 million turkeys, and 27 million ducks were slaughtered for meat last year in the United States, according to the USDA.
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