For the third time since July, food industry giant Tyson Foods Inc. has been the target of an undercover animal cruelty investigation by Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals. Tyson chickenThis time, the animal rights group has signed affidavits against Tyson Foods and six of its employees, hoping it can get misdemeanor criminal charges to stick. And Mercy for Animals has brought more than the usual attention to its work by producing a video of its findings narrated by actress Candice Bergen. In its video taken at a Tyson slaughterhouse outside of Carthage, MS, Mercy for Animals presented evidence showing:

  • Workers punching, throwing, beating, pushing, and otherwise tormenting frightened animals for fun.
  • Birds painfully shocked with electricity but remaining fully conscious when their throats are cut open.
  • Improperly shackled birds getting their heads ripped off while they are still alive and conscious.
  • Chickens dumped on top of each other on a conveyor belt, causing many to suffocate under the weight of other birds.

Mercy for Animals has brought as many as 33 misdemeanor criminal counts agains the company and its employees. A Mississippi Justice Court will review the affidavits and decide whether or not summons will be issued in this case. Justice courts in Mississippi typically handle DUIs and traffic tickets issued by county and state police and other civil cases. An investigator for Mercy for Animals reportedly worked under cover for six weeks at the Tyson’s facility, producing the candid video showing the poultry abuse. Tyson issued a statement, much like they did last time, saying it has fired two of the workers and affirming that the company views proper animal handling as “an important moral and ethical obligation.” It said all Tyson workers, including the person who shot the video, are trained in proper animal handling. The statement also said that any Tyson employees who observe “bad behavior” should contact a supervisor or use the company’s compliance and ethics hotline. Chickens are excluded from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Mercy for Animals said it was “calling on Tyson Foods to implement meaningful animal welfare requirements at all of its company-owned and contract farms and slaughterhouses.” Tyson Foods, Inc., headquartered in Springdale, AR, is one of the world’s largest food companies. It’s leading brands include Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells and State Fair. The company currently has approximately 113,000 employees at more than 400 facilities and offices in the U.S. and around the world.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)