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Frank Perdue’s Legacy of Animal Abuse

Frank Perdue is remembered by PETA as the man directly responsible for more animal suffering and deaths than perhaps any human in history. Perdue, who died in 2005, was responsible not only for killing billions of chickens but for developing many of the notoriously cruel techniques now used throughout the chicken industry.

Over the years, PETA has marched with Perdue’s striking workers and protested his company’s abuse of billions of chickens. At Perdue’s slaughterhouse in Salisbury, Maryland, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk once called a Perdue supervisor to the scene to euthanize suffering chickens who had been left to die from heatstroke in exposed crates. Newkirk discovered that other chickens were thrown alive into “4D” (dead, dying, diseased, and disabled) bins used for meat that is unfit for human consumption. In 1992, an activist in a chicken costume threw a pie at Perdue to protest his treatment of chickens.

Perdue: Killing Chickens With Cruelty

The factory-farming practices developed by Perdue include cramming tens of thousands of chickens into sheds that reek of ammonia fumes from accumulated waste. (Typically, sheds are only cleaned out after the birds have been trucked off for slaughter.) Each bird lives in an amount of space about as wide as a standard sheet of paper.

The birds routinely suffer broken bones because they are bred to be top-heavy and because frustrated, low-paid workers roughly grab their legs, slam them into transportation crates, and later shackle them upside-down at slaughterhouses.

Chickens are often completely conscious when their throats are slit or when they are dropped into tanks of scalding-hot water to remove their feathers. When they’re killed, chickens are still babies—not yet 2 months old. Their natural life span is 10 to 15 years.

Workers Wronged, Mob Connection

“The fear, the harassment is so bad, I call it a close-in slave camp …. Most people just can’t take it .… [T]he treatment is inhuman. They actually feel like they own you.” 

—Former Perdue factory worker Donna Bazemore

Although he was known for his commercials, crowing the slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” Perdue’s business tactics did not fit the wholesome image he projected in slick advertising campaigns.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found in 1984 that on-the-job injuries at Perdue’s largest plant were not being reported, and Bob Hall of the Institute for Southern Studies stated, “Poultry workers quit their jobs at five times the rate of other workers, and with good reason. Their injury rate is one of the 10 highest in manufacturing.”

In 1986, Frank Perdue confessed before the President’s Commission on Organized Crime that he had called upon New York mobsters to break up strike efforts by unionized employees. Perdue workers—mostly rural Southerners who couldn’t find other jobs and lived in shantytowns—were not allowed rest periods or sick leave and were fired if they complained. In 2000, a federal judge ruled that the company had violated federal wage laws by not paying workers for overtime.

What You Can Do

The average American is responsible for the abuse and deaths of approximately 2,500 chickens. The best way to save chickens from suffering at the hands of cruel corporate moguls is to go vegetarian. Please request our free “Vegetarian Starter Kit,” which is full of delicious recipes.

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