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Undercover Investigation Alleges Abuse of Chickens, Workers at Tyson Slaughter Plant in Texas

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has released undercover video footage from inside a Tyson Foods Inc. slaughter plant in Carthage, Texas, which the group asserts documents a system exploiting both workers and animals. The videotape includes an interview with the undercover investigator, filmed in shadow to protect her identity.

This is the second recent undercover investigation involving Tyson Foods. In July, Mercy For Animals released undercover footage from T&S Farm in Dukedom, TN, which had been contracted by Tyson Foods. After that, Tyson announced it was ending its relationship with T&S Farm, and the farm’s owners were subsequently charged with criminal animal cruelty.

Tyson undercover photo of chicken

ALDF says this photo is of a chicken with its leg caught in a cage at a Tyson facility.

“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods are not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws,” he added.

Tyson responded to a Sept. 14 media report of the ALDF investigation with this statement: “Everyone who works with live animals in our plants — including the person who secretly shot this video — is trained in proper animal handling and instructed to report anything they believe is inappropriate. They can report to their supervisor, the Tyson Foods compliance and ethics hotline and even one of the USDA inspectors who have access to all parts of the plant, including live animal handling areas. During the timeframe we believe this video was shot, we have no record of any employees reporting claims of animal handling violations.”

In addition to its allegations of animal abuse, ALDF stated that the fast speeds at which chickens are slaughtered greatly increases the possibility of equipment jamming in processing plants, making it impossible to handle the birds in a humane fashion and creating safety concerns for Tyson employees.

In a letter dated Sept. 14, 2015, ALDF asked the Attorney General of the State of Delaware, where Tyson Foods is incorporated, to investigate and sanction the company.

The group has also filed three complaints against Tyson Foods with three different government agencies. One has been lodged with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging inhumane animal handling practices and food safety violations on the part of Tyson Foods. ALDF is asking USDA to enforce basic food safety regulations as outlined in the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

A second complaint was filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citing what the group called “unsafe working conditions for employees,” including repetitive motion stress injuries and the “high risk of being maimed and/or injured by the rapidly moving conveyor belts.”

“Tyson’s expectations of line speeds — 140 chickens per minute — and number of birds processed per day up to 250,000 — are unrealistic to physically meet, leading workers to putting quotas ahead of animal welfare, food safety regulations, and their own personal safety,” ALDF stated.

The third complaint was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and accuses Tyson Foods of overstating in corporate and investor materials the priority it puts on animal welfare. The group contends that Tyson Foods is well aware of the working conditions in its plants, as well as of “blatant violations of welfare regulations” covering poultry processing.

ALDF has urged Tyson Foods to immediately decrease the speed at which chickens are slaughtered, allowing time for each animal to be treated humanely and eliminating pileups and jams in machinery that cause extreme suffering. The group also asked the company to set a date and commitment to begin controlled atmosphere stunning, which uses carbon dioxide or a blend of gases to cause the birds to lose consciousness before they are hung on processing racks.

“We’re giving Tyson Foods an opportunity to be an industry leader in the humane treatment of chickens. These changes would ensure chickens are not being tortured when killed and protect their employees from injury,” Wells said.

On its website, Tyson states that the company’s plants follows established industry guidelines to reduce the suffering of animals in its poultry processing facilities.

“Our chicken and turkey plants comply with the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines (PDF) and National Turkey Federation Animal Care Best Management Practices (PDF) which, similar to the Humane Slaughter Act, are designed to decrease suffering of poultry during harvest by advocating the need for poultry to be rendered insensible to pain prior to harvest,” according to the Tyson site.

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