For Immediate Release:
April 7, 2021
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382
Fort Smith, Ark. – After obtaining U.S. Department of Agriculture documents revealing that chickens, likely numbering in the thousands, were held on trucks without food or water for 37 hours at an Oklahoma slaughterhouse owned by Fort Smith–based OK Foods—and that a worker there threw chickens into a cage—PETA sent a letter this morning to Oklahoma District 16 District Attorney Jeff Smith requesting a criminal probe and charges under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law.
“If these workers had packed dogs onto trucks and denied them food and water for a day and a half, they’d face cruelty charges,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Chickens experience hunger, thirst, and misery just as all animals do, and they’re protected by the same state law—so PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on their behalf.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Smith follows.
April 7, 2021
The Honorable Jeff Smith
Dear Mr. Smith:
We’re writing to request that your office (and the local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against OK Foods, Inc., and the workers responsible for leaving numerous chickens without food and water for approximately 37 hours—and for throwing other birds into a cage—at its slaughterhouse located at 200 Industrial Rd. in Heavener. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which PETA just obtained via a public records request.
According to the first report, chickens from a Waldron, Arkansas, farm arrived at the slaughterhouse on January 15, 2020, when a water-related problem at the facility delayed slaughter operations. Rather than returning them to a farm, OK Foods staff allegedly left the animals—likely numbering thousands—on at least two trucks on its property before starting to slaughter them on January 17. In the intervening 37 hours, the chickens were deprived of food and water. It is unknown whether any birds died as a result and, if so, how many.
On March 30, 2020, a federal agent reported seeing an OK Foods worker throw approximately four live chickens, with a side-arm motion, into a cage. The federal agent wrote that an OK Foods supervisor was standing 6 to 8 feet away but took no action to stop the worker from throwing the animals.
This conduct may violate 21 Okl. St. Ann. § 21-1685. Although Oklahoma’s anti-cruelty statute doesn’t exempt industry-accepted agricultural practices from prosecution, the documented conduct violates the chicken industry’s standards and thus would not be protected from prosecution if such an exemption did exist. 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.
Please let us know how we can assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.
Vice President of Evidence Analysis