Hundreds of Birds Smothered at Agri Star; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 20, 2022

Contact:
Nicole Meyer 202-4837382

Postville, Iowa – After obtaining U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documents revealing that workers at Agri Star Meat & Poultry in Postville repeatedly smothered hundreds of chickens to death, PETA sent a letter today to Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke calling on him to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against those responsible.

According to the reports, a USDA inspector found that 317 chickens were killed on July 8, 2021, after a worker continued dumping them onto a malfunctioning belt, piling them up to four birds deep and smothering most on the bottom. The inspector warned Agri Star management that workers should be trained in handling malfunctioning belts—but a worker did the same thing when the belt malfunctioned again on August 12, smothering additional birds to death. The exact number was redacted from the records.

“If anyone smothered hundreds of dogs to death, they’d 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 fates 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 PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Gericke follows.

January 20, 2022

The Honorable Anthony Gericke

Allamakee County Attorney

Dear Mr. Gericke:

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 Agri Star Meat & Poultry, LLC, and the workers responsible for smothering more than 300 chickens to death at its slaughterhouse located at 220 N. West St. in Postville. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which the agency just made available to the public.

According to the reports, on July 8, an FSIS inspector found that 317 chickens had died after a worker continued dumping them onto a malfunctioning conveyor belt. The worker piled the birds up to four animals deep, and most of those on the lowest level were smothered. FSIS warned Agri Star management that day that workers should be trained “how to handle … when belts malfunction … to prevent” such deaths.

However, just five weeks later, on August 12, the belt again malfunctioned, and again, a worker continued to dump and pile birds on top of one another. Once more, an unspecified number of chickens were “smothered … as a result.”

This conduct may violate Iowa Code § 717.2 (1) (c). 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 me know if I can assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the important work that you do.

Sincerely,

Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

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“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind