Least Cruel Death Sought for Pennsylvania Chickens

PETA Calls On State Veterinarian to Ensure That Birds Aren’t Smothered, Suffocated, or Decapitated While Still Conscious

For Immediate Release:
April 16, 2020

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Harrisburg, Pa.

Following reports that because of slaughterhouse closures, Pennsylvania farmers have started to kill chickens without processing their bodies for human consumption, PETA sent an urgent letter today calling on state veterinarian Kevin Brightbill to ensure that the birds will be killed using only means approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for non-emergencies.

“These chickens don’t deserve to be tossed into an old wood chipper or struck with a two-by-four, as PETA has documented in other ‘depopulation’ efforts,” says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. “The law, veterinary guidance, and common decency all mandate that the birds receive the quickest and least cruel death possible.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—notes that the COVID-19 pandemic responsible for the slaughterhouse closures originated in a meat market. Health authorities confirm that influenza viruses and coronaviruses are zoonotic (transmissible from other animals to humans), and previous influenza viruses originated in pigs and chickens.

For more information, visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to Brightbill follows.

April 16, 2020

Kevin Brightbill, D.M.V., Ph.D.

State Veterinarian

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Dear Dr. Brightbill,

We respectfully request your immediate attention. PETA understands that Pennsylvania factory farmers have started to kill young chickens because of slaughterhouse closures. We urgently seek confirmation from your agency that only killing methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for non-emergencies will be used in Pennsylvania and that this undertaking will be done with appropriate respect and diligence.

Because this is not an emergency situation—in which, say, chickens are suffering and dying because of a disease outbreak or natural disaster—please verify that Pennsylvania facilities will not use water-based foam to smother these birds. Such deaths are particularly terrifying and slow—federal standards allow some chickens to survive foaming for up to 14 minutes. Similarly, caring individuals, including those of us at PETA, request that you confirm that workers in the Commonwealth won’t cut these birds’ throats or decapitate them while they’re conscious or shut off all ventilation in sheds and raise the heat (which is known as “ventilation shutdown plus”) to kill birds slowly and painfully by means of heatstroke and suffocation.

Please secure assurance from Pennsylvania producers that workers will treat birds with respect and be continuously supervised by management. Those who care about these birds’ welfare want to know that poultry industry workers in Pennsylvania are properly trained in the use of containerized gassing, cervical dislocation, and captive-bolt guns to kill these animals as quickly as possible and with the least possible stress. May we also have your word that workers will confirm that each individual chicken is dead prior to disposal and rapidly destroy any surviving birds in an acceptable and lawful manner?

In addition to legal and veterinary requirements, common decency demands that these chickens—who have suffered day and night in severely crowded, ammonia-ridden sheds and to whom these factory farmers owe their livelihood—be given the quickest, most painless death possible. Having been denied everything that’s natural and important to them—such as seeing the sun, breathing fresh air, roosting in trees, and building their own social structure—these animals surely deserve better than being treated as if they were old tree branches that can be tossed into a wood chipper or struck with two-by-fours as if they were baseballs. PETA has documented such atrocities in other “depopulation” efforts. Thank you for your time.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

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