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PETA Prompts Innovation in U.S. Chicken Farming

Written by PETA | October 22, 2010
benimoto/CC by 2.0

Yes, we wish everyone would just go vegan and be done with it, but we ain’t there yet. It’s a process (and you know that it’s gathering steam if you heard Bill Clinton describing his own dietary decisions on CNN: “No chicken!”). So while we sling vegan starter kits at people as if there were no tomorrow, we also work hard to reduce the suffering of the billions of chickens—for whom there truly is no tomorrow—who are born into a world where people still salivate over birds’ limbs. That’s why we are very pleased to announce that after more than a year of behind-the-scenes work with PETA, two chicken producers, Pennsylvania-based Bell & Evans and California-based Mary’s Chickens, have begun the process of implementing a new slaughter system called “controlled-atmosphere killing” (CAK). These will be the first slaughterhouses in the U.S. to make the switch. This new system is a huge improvement over the cruel systems that are used today.

Here’s what happens to chickens in the U.S. now: They are dumped out of their transport crates, violently shackled upside down (a procedure that often results in broken wings and legs), and run through an electrical bath that paralyzes them but leaves them conscious. In addition, millions of them are scalded to death in defeathering tanks. CAK eliminates all these abuses. That’s because it removes the oxygen from the chickens’ environment and slowly replaces it with a nonpoisonous gas that puts the birds to sleep while they are still in their transport crates. This system also removes any opportunity for workers to engage in the kind of abuse that PETA has uncovered during multiple undercover investigations.

A number of restaurant chains (including Quiznos, Subway, Starbucks, and Ruby Tuesday) and grocery chains (including Safeway, Harris Teeter, and Winn-Dixie) are already purchasing turkeys killed by CAK. Now, for the first time, thanks to Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens, restaurants and grocery stores will also be able to purchase chickens killed by CAK.

We believe that it’s just a matter of time before others producers follow suit. In Europe, CAK is already widely used and is gaining in popularity, and we think that these decisions by Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens mark the beginning of an industrywide change that will prevent billions of chickens in the U.S. from enduring terrible pain and suffering. If you were a chicken dreaming of a vegan world and headed for the knife, which system would you vote for?

KFC and McDonald’s, are you listening?

Written by Alisa Mullins

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  • PETA says:

    Re: Are leftist really tolerant. Many Jews have concluded that we cannot be rachmanim b’nei rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) while supporting the cruel conditions under which animals are raised and slaughtered by the billions for their flesh, eggs, and milk. We hope that, through your religion, you embrace the virtues of love, mercy, and compassion and to extend their compassion to non-human animals. Per the argument of “canine teeth”, human bodies are actually better suited to a vegetarian diet. Carnivorous animals have long, curved fangs, claws, and a short digestive tract. Humans have flat, flexible nails, and our so-called “canine” teeth are minuscule compared to those of carnivores or even compared to vegetarian primates like gorillas and orangutans. Our tiny canine teeth are better suited to biting into fruits than tearing through tough hides. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and we urge you to learn more about animals used for food, and the moral and health reasons to go vegan: http://www.peta.org/issues/Animals-Used-For-Food/default.aspx.

  • Are leftest really tolerant says:

    The God I believe in says I can eat animals. As a matter of fact, it tells me which ones are “clean” and which one’s are “dirty”. But you can feel free to support my freedom of religion and show me how tolerant you are. I have canine teeth.. those are meant to rip flesh. I’m sorry you feel so irrationally empathetic for an “animal”. You’re probably pro-choice and completely fine with killing unborn HUMAN babies. I support this process if it is more humane for the animals, but I’m going to eat them either way. When I get enough land to raise them, I’ll kill them myself and my family!

  • PETA says:

    @Chloe – PETA believes in both animal rights and animal welfare. Of course, in the long term, we’d like to see animal rights adopted universally. But we’re also pragmatic, and we realize that because billions of animals are suffering in the food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment industries each year, we must take immediate action to try to alleviate some of their suffering. We don’t condone or encourage any means of killing animals for their flesh. There is simply no humane way to kill animals for food, and the vast number of animals required to feed humans’ current meat habit makes individual attention to their wants and needs impossible. However, the less cruel controlled-atmosphere killing method for birds, while not perfect, helps to significantly improve animal welfare and should be adopted by producers. There are several such systems currently available for commercial use and a number of large-scale systems have already been implemented in the U.K. with great success.

  • Chloe says:

    I’m obviously very for any improvement in the treatment of these poor birds… but my understanding was that PETA has always been animal RIGHTS, not animal WELFARE?

    I thought we were fighting for no killing, not “better” killing.

    I would have at least expected a brief final paragraph saying that while this is an awesome first step, there’s still much to be done to stop the mass murder of animals for human consumption.

  • Melissa says:

    Humane slaughter is a huge step forward, but we must not forget or turn a blind eye to the devastating conditions most factory-farmed animals are forced to endure. One example, is that egg-laying chickens get their beaks sawed off so they won’t peck each other as they are stuffed into cages too small for them to turn around. How unneccessary is that? I urge those who choose to eat meat to eat kindly. Boycott factory farming and find a local farm to get your beef, pork, and chicken. I am a vegan, but my local farm (about 40 minutes away) is free range, uses no antibiotics, and all the animals are treated and yes, slaughtered humanely. Get to know your farmers, ask questions, support them, and clear your conscience in the process.

  • Nora-V says:

    Re: Missy. Thank you for voicing your concern. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, consisting of a variety of foods, provides all the nutrients that we need, at any age. For information about raising vegetarian kids, visit http://www.peta.org/living/parenting/vegetarian-family.aspx. Concerning PETA’s activism towards children: lifelong eating habits are formed during childhood, and considering the impacts of animal products on our health (http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/eating-for-health.aspx), we shouldn’t tolerate the meat and dairy industries’ peddling their products to our children. Instead, we should start kids on the road to a healthy, humane lifestyle by teaching them to make smart AND compassionate eating choices that will serve both them and animals. – Nora, PETA

  • Missy says:

    I personally am not nor will I ever be a vegetarian. I am a nurse and I personally believe that by denying a child all of the major food groups is neglect and child abuse. I took my son and two nieces along with my nephew to see the Oscar Meyer weiner mobile and PETA shows up with pictures of pigs and other things asking the children who were with me if they knew that their weiner had a name BABE. Who actually cares how cruel someone is to am animal when these ignorant idiots are treating children ( who totally have no understanding of what this is about) like little criminals. Stop messing with our children, you think what you wish and how you wish and leave the rest of the world alone. Stop forcing your OPINION on others!!!

  • Steven says:

    Now we can all feel les guilty about eating chicken… awesome work!!!!

  • Mari says:

    This is such good news. Yeah the chickens are still dying but they’re not suffering. I really do think this is a big step. I hope other companies follow their example. :DD

  • Elizabeth says:

    It’s awesome to hear that PETA is working with companies to find truly humane slaughter methods. Great work!

  • sara says:

    I feel this is great. I really hope this method keeps growing in US, not only for chickens but for other animals. @Steve: You probably haven’t realized it yet. Having vegans is actually very good, imagine if all the world eats the same amout of meat you may eat, we could need some extra planets to race those animals. Being vegan is beneficial, the more people that reduces their meat consumption the better. For the ones that still eat it, how wonderful is to know it comes from an animal that didn’t suffer. Even, afte having those methods in place, is still wonderful that people give up meat, for the planets sake (so we can go away the massive meat-production system) and go back to old practices of raising the animal free and proper slaugher.

  • Nora-V says:

    Hi Rich, Thanks for your support, and we’re glad to hear about your decision to petition Foster Farms. Please contact us at ateam@peta.org – Nora, PETA

  • rich says:

    I think what PETA does is necessary and a great thing. CAK seems like a great idea and I will look into petitioning Foster Farms to adopt its use. When assessing what an ideal world would be please remember that most people will always eat meat, humans are after all omnivorous by nature. You should think of Rush Limbaugh’s audience as your audience in spite of what the bleating sheep herder might say. You are much more likely to attain your goals which most people would gladly stand by if the focus is that animals don’t need to suffer in order to provide us with our sustenance.

  • Stacey says:

    Baby Steps! This is awesome! I’m a vegetarian of 8 years, however my children and husband are not. I will at least feel somewhat comfortable taking them to these restaurants which purchase their chickens from CAK! Job well done to all who made this possible. Peace

  • Lauren Holt says:

    They use CAK in European McDonalds, and they use free range eggs and recyclabe packaging. McDonalds is on the brink of becoming a place I can actually eat! So close!

  • Sara says:

    I agree that this is at least a step in the right direction, but I agree with [and another thing] about the chickens being raised humanely. Just because they kill them with less pain means nothing about how they are treated up until that point. How were they loaded into the transport crates? How many other chickens are they sharing a space with? What steroids have been pumped into their little bodies by needles thus causing pain? Just imagine what life would be like living like that! Chickens are very social creatures which means that they have complex brains just like we do! It just breaks my heart to think that all these poor defenseless animals live their lives never knowing any form of happiness or joy, just to be what? Killed humanely? At least their last moments aren’t the worst of their life.

  • Chriszpie says:

    WOW, its news like this that really brightens your day. I unfortunetly don’t eat veg or fruits due to numerous reasons and therefore the vegan option is not feasible for me. So hearing these amazing breakthroughs is GREAT. Thanxs PETA for your amazing work…now next step…get South Africa to implement the CAK method! :)

  • nancy says:

    Someone commented that this sets back the animal rights movement. Don’t say you would prefer to be tortured instead of this more humane method if you were in a chicken’s place? Do you really want chickens to be in as much pain as possible until the entire world becomes vegan? People who say that must lack empathy. Of course this is a tremendous step in the right direction and it’s a vast improvement for the chickens. I would like everyone to be vegan. In the meantime, I want chickens to at least have less pain. PETA is doing wonderful work.

  • and another thing says:

    Maybe they were KILLED humanely, but were they RAISED humanely? I don’t believe they ever will be. GO VEGAN

  • alina says:

    It’s good news and all…I mean it’s just great. But at the same people will now hardly have a reason to switch to vegan/veg because the chickens are killed humanely. Their suffering was the reason I went vegan 5 years ago and I can’t imagine being swayed as much if I knew they weren’t in any pain while being killed. So yes, it’s good, but it’s maybe a step in a backwards direction.

  • shiva says:

    I’m still the”chicken in dreaming of a vegan world”.though that’s good news I admit.

  • eddie says:

    I like the idea to decrease the suffering of our animal companions.  I wished people went Vegan overnight, however some people have to get really ill before they start researching for Vegan diet.  It is a good thing.  Good Job Peta.   Bravo

  • Fotini says:

    On the one hand that’s good news, because a lot of chickens won’t be butchered but on the other, it’s bad. A lot of retards will talk about humane methods of killing and will feel free to eat those chickens killed by CAK…there is no such thing as humane killing and chickens were not put here for us to eat.

  • Jessica Vanessa says:

    I agree with Meg I personally would vote for no killing but if you have to pick on I guess this is the way to go! Well I wish everyone will follow soon! But in the mean time I’m going to pray to the Peta Gods for all these innocent living beings that have their life’s stolen for FOOD???!

  • Katie says:

    This is great to see this. Hopefully more and more places will buy chicken from them. And Steve, no, it is human’s selfish “reasoning” that people think that “some animals were put here to eat” to excuse their eating habits. And crazy vegan world? How offensive! I think *your* meat-eating world is crazy.

  • Skye says:

    This is good news. Small steps are better than no steps. And no offense to to commenter Steve, who already offended many by referring to us as “your crazy vegan world”, but did God tell you animals were put here for us to eat? So glad you have specific insight to the Divine plan.

  • stacey76 says:

    Yeah, I wish there was NO killing too. Until that day, this is a GREAT step. Change happens slowly! Any step in the right direction is good news.

  • Sixfingered says:

    A dead chicken is a dead chicken. “But they are killed humanely” is now another argument for taking away an animals right to live. I believe this sets back the animal rights movement.

  • EGra says:

    What a breakthrough! It is only a matter of time before the rest take suit. This makes me extremely proud.

  • Steve says:

    Now THIS is the kind of thing that I like to see PETA doing. In stead of pushing your crazy vegan world on us meat-eaters, I can understand humane killing of animals. Some animals were put here to eat. Our physiology is made for eating meat. And I like that PETA understood that in the CAK implementation.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I personally would vote for no killing at all and for everyone in the United States to be vegan. I have weaned myself to one meat meal per day, preferably dinner but not always, sadly. I have already cut dairy from my life (I had to, I have developed an allergy to it). No milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or butter or anything made with dairy. When I get the meat out of my diet the next thing to go will be eggs. Now, I have heard some people say that if the entire United States went vegan, there would be no need for cattle, chickens and pigs to be bred so there would be none but I don’t believe that because of the voracious carnivore appetites of other developed nations that don’t have the inclination to raise enough of these animals for themselves, so sadly we would probably end up being the world’s feedlot…

  • James says:

    Now if there were only a way to use CAK for other animals that are being slaughtered.

  • James says:

    Inspiring news! Change takes time and many small steps. Gratitude to these companies for their collective changes.

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