Birds Left to Drown in Scalding-Hot Water; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 28, 2022

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Teachey, N.C.

After obtaining U.S. Department of Agriculture documents revealing that workers at the House of Raeford Farms slaughterhouse near Teachey repeatedly allowed conscious chickens to drown to death in scalding-hot water, PETA sent a letter today to Fifth Prosecutorial District Attorney Ernie Lee, calling on him to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against those responsible.

According to the reports, an inspector saw a live chicken nearing the water on April 2 and alerted slaughterhouse staff—but workers just let the bird be dragged into the tank and drown. On June 17, a federal agent saw a chicken who was opening and closing her beak and trying to remove her leg from a shackle approaching the scalding tank. The inspector notified workers, one of whom shrugged. This bird also drowned in the burning water.

Officials warned the House of Raeford Farms slaughterhouse in Rose Hill about its mistreatment of birds 13 times between April and September 2021—more than any other U.S. poultry slaughterhouse during that period. Twelve of the citations followed discoveries of live birds about to be plunged into scalding-hot water. The other came after a live chicken was found in a bin of dead birds.

“If anyone left dogs to drown in scalding-hot 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 feel 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 Lee follows.

January 28, 2022

The Honorable Ernie Lee

District Attorney

Prosecutorial District 5

Dear Mr. Lee:

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 House of Raeford Farms and the workers responsible for allowing chickens to drown to death in scalding-hot water at its slaughterhouse located at 253 Butterball Rd. in Duplin County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents, which the agency just made available to the public. (See the first two rows in the tables in the attached reports.)

According to the reports, on April 2, an FSIS inspector saw a live, shackled chicken approaching a tank of scalding-hot water. The federal official “pointed [the bird] out and [two] plant employees spotted [the bird] as well.” Neither worker stopped the line of shackles from moving the animal, alive, into the tank of scalding-hot water, even though “[b]oth … had sufficient time to realize there was a problem and stop the line ….  This live bird entered the scalder” and drowned.

A more egregious incident occurred on June 17. That evening, an FSIS official saw a conscious chicken approaching the scalding tank while “actively looking around and opening and closing [her] beak, appearing to try to get [her] leg out of the shackle.” The federal agent immediately pointed this animal out to two workers, and while they “had sufficient time to realize there was a problem and stop the line,” neither did. In fact, one of the workers who was notified that the conscious chicken was about to be conveyed into scalding-hot water simply “shrugged.” This bird also drowned.

This conduct may violate N.C.G.S. § 14-360 (a). 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

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