Birds Left to Drown in Electrified Water; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 26, 2022

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Salisbury, Md.

After obtaining U.S. Department of Agriculture documents revealing that a worker at the Perdue Foods slaughterhouse in Salisbury left chickens to drown in electrified water, PETA sent a letter today to Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie L. Dykes calling on her to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against those responsible.

According to the report, on September 21, 2021, a line that was carrying live chickens who were hanging upside down stopped, leaving the birds’ heads submerged in electrified water. An inspector noted that the worker nearest the birds simply sat there as they died.

Federal officials cited Perdue a total of 11 times, at four sites, for mistreating birds between April and September 2021 alone. Live chickens were repeatedly found in dumpsters full of dead birds at the Salisbury slaughterhouse and at a slaughterhouse near Lewiston Woodville, North Carolina.

At a facility outside Dillon, South Carolina, workers left a live chicken in a vat with dead birds for more than 48 hours. In Rockingham, North Carolina, chickens were repeatedly scalded alive and one bird was impaled by a wire through the beak and trapped against a cage floor.

“If anyone sat by as dogs drowned in electrified water, they would face multiple charges of cruelty to animals, and chickens suffer the same way and are also protected by law,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation into the horrific fate of these birds, who felt pain and fear every bit as much as the animals who share our homes.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Dykes follows.

January 26, 2022

The Honorable Jamie L. Dykes

State’s Attorney for Wicomico County

Dear Ms. Dykes:

I’m writing to request that your office (and the local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against Perdue Foods, LLC, and the worker responsible for allowing chickens to drown in electrified water at its slaughterhouse located at 521 Willow St. in Salisbury. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident, which the agency just made available to the public. (See the first row in the attached table.)

According to the report, on September 21, a line conveying chickens hanged upside down by their legs stopped, leaving live birds’ heads submerged in a vat of electrified water. An FSIS inspector noted that the worker nearest the animals “was sitting there and was not doing anything to address the” situation. At the federal official’s request, another Perdue Foods worker removed the birds. The FSIS inspector “saw none of them moving or breathing” and confirmed that all had died. The number of victims was redacted from the USDA report.

This conduct may violate Maryland Code, Criminal Law, § 10-604. Please note that FSIS’ action doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouses or their workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals. For more information on FSIS’ findings, please contact District Manager Todd M. Furey. Please let me know if I can assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the important work that you do.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.