New Lawsuit Could Determine That Chicken Slaughter in California Is Illegal

PETA Posits That Electrical Stunning, Which Leaves an Estimated One-Third of Chickens Conscious While Their Throats Are Slit, Violates State Law

For Immediate Release:
June 29, 2015

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Sacramento, Calif.

Using reports showing that one-third of chickens are inadequately stunned in California slaughterhouses—leaving them conscious and able to feel pain as their throats are slit—and that an estimated 7 million birds per year aren’t properly bled to death before they’re plunged into scalding-hot defeathering tanks, PETA filed a lawsuit today in Los Angeles Superior Court against the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In its lawsuit, PETA contends that electric stunning violates California’s humane slaughter law, which requires that animals be rendered insensible to pain before being cut and bled, as well as the California Penal Code, which prohibits torturing, maiming, and cruelly killing any animal.

If PETA’s lawsuit is successful, electric stunning—which is currently believed to be the most common procedure used in California’s poultry slaughterhouses—would no longer be permitted in the state as a method for stunning birds before slaughter.

“By permitting electric stunning, the California Department of Food and Agriculture sentences tens of millions of birds each year to excruciating pain and terrible deaths,” says PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey Kerr. “PETA’s lawsuit seeks to end this illegal killing—and initiate sweeping changes in an industry that currently slits conscious birds’ throats and scalds them to death.”

The vast majority of the 250 million birds slaughtered annually in California are shackled upside down by their legs and dragged through a bath of electrified water. The electric shock is intended to induce seizures that supposedly render the animals unconscious and insensible to pain. But in reality—according to scientific research published in peer-reviewed journals—around one-third are still conscious when their throats are cut, and they remain conscious throughout the bleed-out process. They’re then thrown—while still alive—into a scalding tank, where they sink to the bottom and drown or boil to death. It’s estimated that up to 7 million chickens are boiled to death in this manner.

While PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—pushes to reduce the total suffering caused by the meat, dairy, and egg industries, it reminds caring people that the only truly humane meal is a vegan one.

PETA’s writ petition is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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