Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has her detectives investigating reports of possible animal cruelty at Foster Farms, which has two processing plans in Fresno and is the largest poultry producer on the West Coast. The investigation was prompted Wednesday by Mercy For Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal rights group, presenting the sheriff and the company with an undercover video showing Foster Farms employees abusing chickens. Foster Farms issued a statement saying it will cooperate with the sheriff’s probe and will also conduct its own “comprehensive investigation.” And, in an unusual twist, the Washington D.C.-based Animal Humane Association, which serves as a third-party auditor of animal-welfare practices, has also come under fire from Mercy For Animals for its humane certification of Foster Farms. Mercy For Animal’s latest undercover investigation includes a video narrated by 91-year-old Bob Barker, the Emmy Award-winning host of the longest-running game show in history, “The Price is Right.” That video, according to the producer, shows some troubling behavior including:
- Workers punching and tormenting animals before violently slamming them into shackles.
- Workers carelessly throwing baby chicks onto the ground with no regard for their welfare.
- Evidence of birds scalded alive in hot water feather-removal tanks.
- Chickens bred to grow so unnaturally fast they often suffer painful leg deformities and other injuries.
Mercy obtained statements from three veterinarians and two animal-welfare experts attesting to the fact that the activity presented on the video is animal cruelty. Dr. Bernard E. Rollin at Colorado State University went further, saying that the video shows “sick and injured animals” with “wounds and lesions” that are “not fresh.” Sheriff’s office spokesman Tony Botti said detectives are aware of the allegations and are looking into them. A Foster Farms spokesman said, “The behavior of the individuals in this video is inappropriate and counter to our stringent animal welfare standards, procedures, and policies.” Those company standards, procedures, and practices have been certified since 2013 by the 138-year-old Animal Humane Association, the organization best known for seeing that animals are not hurt during television and film production. AHA spokesman Mark Stubis said the group is “dedicated to the humane treatment of all animals.” Mercy For Animals said the video was taken between April and June at both the Foster Farms slaughter plant and the company’s broiler farm. It provided pay stubs for one or more of the undercover workers who got $10-an-hour jobs at Foster Farms going back to mid-March.