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Tell the USDA Not to Let the Poultry Industry Police Itself

The USDA is considering drastically cutting the number of federal inspectors on chicken and turkey slaughter lines, leaving slaughterhouses to police themselves with almost no government oversight. This program could hurt billions of animals every year and put Americans’ health in jeopardy.

As part of the slaughter process, birds are sent through an electric water bath in order to immobilize them (the voltage is too low to render them unconscious). Consequently, virtually all birds are sensible to pain as their throats are cut. With even fewer federal inspectors to observe live-hanging and recognize bruising, injuries, and other signs of cruel handling practices, let alone the kind of wanton abuse that PETA has documented in plants all over the country (including that workers kicked birds, sexually abused them, slammed them into walls, and squeezed their innards out for fun while the birds were still alive), these unacceptable practices will only get worse.

These conditions also can only compromise the little food safety standards now in place. As it stands, chicken and turkey meat are two of the most common origins of food poisoning. A 2010 Consumer Reports analysis showed that two-thirds of whole chickens sold in the U.S. harbor salmonella, campylobacter, or both. The Food & Water Watch’s investigation revealed that, in this new program, the error rate in identifying health and safety issues was as high as 87 percent. Most of these defects involved “visible fecal contamination that was missed by company employees.”

Tell the USDA not to remove federal inspectors from chicken and turkey slaughter lines.

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