Electric immobilization, the conventional method of slaughter in North American poultry slaughterhouses, causes an array of animal welfare, economic, and worker-safety problems. The process involves dumping and shackling live birds, running them through an electrically charged bath of water to immobilize them, slitting their throats with a machine, and defeathering them in tanks of scalding-hot water.
Since 2002, PETA has been urging major food retailers, such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Kroger, Safeway, and Wal-Mart, as well as the nation's largest poultry producers—including Butterball, Tyson, and Pilgrim's Pride—to switch from electric immobilization to controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK).
Electric-immobilization systems require that birds be handled and processed while they are still alive and conscious, which causes them great suffering:
This abuse is permitted because the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the only federal law designed to protect animals from abuse at slaughter, doesn't protect chickens or turkeys. Chickens and turkeys make up more than 95 percent of the animals slaughtered in the U.S.—9.5 billion chickens and turkeys are slaughtered each year, compared to about 100 million pigs and 45 million cattle and sheep.
Electric immobilization also has negative economic implications for carcass quality, yield, and contamination:
With regard to worker safety, traditional poultry slaughterhouses are dimly lit, stressful, disease-ridden places that result in poor working conditions:
Controlled-atmosphere killing is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved slaughter method that is currently used to kill 75 percent of turkeys and 25 percent of chickens in the United Kingdom and 10 percent of all birds in the European Union. CAK removes oxygen from the birds' atmosphere while they are still in their transport crates. The birds are not "gassed" (i.e., asphyxiated); they die from lack of oxygen, or anoxia. During this process, the
oxygen from the chickens' environment is removed and slowly replaced with a
nonpoisonous gas that puts the birds to sleep while they are still in their
transport crates. CAK eliminates the numerous animal welfare, economic, and
worker-safety issues associated with electric immobilization:
Although certain industry representatives have attempted to argue that there is some uncertainty about the animal welfare benefits of controlled-atmosphere killing, these same representatives are unable to produce a single study to challenge the fact that every published report on controlled-atmosphere systems to date—including a 2005 study by McDonald's—concludes that they are far better for animals than the current slaughter method. These conclusions are affirmed by top meat-industry and USDA advisors, such as Drs. Temple Grandin, Ian Duncan, and Mohan Raj.
Considering the improvements in carcass quality, product yield, and labor costs that come with controlled-atmosphere killing, it is no surprise that a return on investment (ROI) in CAK can be reached in as little as one year.
Surprisingly, despite the clear benefits of CAK over electric immobilization and its minimal ROI time, North American poultry companies have been slow to adopt it. There is no reason to delay implementation of CAK in North American slaughterhouses any longer.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.