Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Stop Eating Chickens

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3 min read

If you thought slaughterhouses couldn’t possibly get any crueler, think again. According to a recent report in The Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to allow chicken slaughterhouses to speed up production lines from 140 birds per minute to 175 and to replace government inspectors with plant employees.

Not only would this move further threaten food and worker safety, it would also greatly increase animal suffering. Animal welfare is typically a low priority when workers are forced to rush to keep up with slaughterhouse line speeds. Birds are often scalded alive and have their throats slit while they’re still conscious.

For years, PETA has documented meat industry horrors through undercover investigations that have resulted in federal action and felony cruelty charges. In 2004, PETA released gruesome undercover footage shot at a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken slaughterhouse in Moorefield, West Virginia. The tape shows slaughterhouse workers stomping birds, kicking them, and slamming them against floors and walls. Employees tore the animals’ beaks off, twisted their heads off, spat tobacco into their eyes and mouths, spraypainted their faces, and tied their legs together “for laughs.”

Dan Rather echoed the views of all compassionate Americans when he said on the CBS Evening News, “There’s no mistaking what [the PETA video] depicts: cruelty to animals, chickens horribly mistreated before they’re slaughtered for a fast-food chain.”

Our Pilgrim’s Pride investigation prompted the Food Safety and Inspection Service to issue a notice requiring all slaughterhouses nationwide to handle chickens and turkeys humanely. Another PETA investigation four years later at a turkey factory farm led to the first-ever felony indictments for cruelty to farmed birds and the first-ever convictions of turkey factory farmers for cruelty.

If dogs and cats were treated as heinously as were these birds, the perpetrators would be prosecuted. Even the approximately 150 million cattle, pigs, and sheep slaughtered each year in the U.S. have some legal protection under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Yet the 9 billion birds who are slaughtered for food each year are not even required by law to be stunned before their throats are cut. They are denied even a humane death and effective protection from outright sadism in our nation’s slaughterhouses. 

There is no logical basis for this prejudice against chickens. They are just as deserving of compassion and respect as any other animal. Like other animals, they feel love, happiness, and fear. They actually score higher on animal intelligence tests than do dogs and cats, and of course, they feel pain in the same way.

For years, PETA has been urging chicken and turkey producers to switch to controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK), an improved slaughter method that puts birds to sleep by removing the oxygen from their environment and replacing it with an inert gas. Thanks to PETA’s pioneering work, companies such as Chipotle, Ruby Tuesday, Subway, Starbucks, Quiznos, Denny’s, Harris Teeter, Winn-Dixie, Safeway, and Canadian KFCs all began purchasing birds killed with this less cruel method of slaughter, and now the U.S. has two CAK chicken suppliers, in addition to a growing number of CAK turkey suppliers.

But the animals can’t wait for the industry to ensure that birds aren’t boiled alive—it’s up to each of us to help stop animal suffering by going vegan.

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