Undercover footage released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) documents Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE:TSN) slaughterhouse practices that routinely violate animal welfare standards and worker safety regulations.
Tyson Foods is one of the largest meat producers in the world.
An ALDF investigator spent a month working undercover at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse and processing facility in Carthage, Texas, that kills up to 250,000 chickens a day, forcing workers to handle 35 birds per minute, eight hours a day. The investigator described hellish conditions in the plant, where lack of air conditioning causes temperatures to soar into the high 90s.
"The images from the plant are truly horrifying, and our investigator's story fills in even more details about what goes on inside the slaughterhouse," said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "Animals are suffering at virtually every turn. Chickens frequently arrive at the plant already dead; the ones who are still alive are roughly handled and thrown around like inanimate objects. The rack that takes the birds to slaughter moves so fast, it's impossible for workers to handle them humanely. Our investigator saw live birds being thrown aside to die a lingering death; and equipment jams that caused some chickens to suffocate or be crushed in the pile-up."
The conditions take a toll on workers as well. "I got feces in my eyes and mouth regularly," said ALDF's investigator. "I had heat rashes, eye discharge, blisters on my hands, carpal tunnel, infected scratches and cuts, severe fatigue and body aches and a head cold from the bad air quality. It was by far the hardest thing I've physically ever had to do."
Industry meets agriculture
Most of us are familiar with old black-and-white images of Henry Ford's assembly line. The assembly line revolutionized manufacturing, allowing increased efficiency and profits.
Used in modern agribusiness, the assembly line essentially becomes an industrialized animal disassembly line, providing a mechanistic end to the short, miserable lives of billions of animals every year. In fact, over 10 billion land animals die annually in U.S. factory farms; an overwhelming majority of them are chickens.
Animal welfare at Tyson processing plants around the U.S. has been the target of many questions in recent years. Most recently, in July, the animal welfare organization Mercy For Animals released undercover footage showing horrific conditions at a chicken farm that contracts with Tyson. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also documented numerous animal welfare issues at Tyson facilities.
ALDF takes action
As a result of its investigation, ALDF has filed formal complaints against Tyson Foods with three federal agencies:
First, ALDF filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), concerning Tyson's inhumane animal handling practices and food safety violations. ALDF is asking the agency to enforce basic food safety regulations outlined in the Poultry Products Inspection Act.
Second, ALDF filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), citing unsafe working conditions for employees, including repetitive motion stress injuries and the high risk of maiming by the rapidly moving conveyor belts. The pressure to process thirty-five chickens per minute eight hours a day forces workers to put their quotas ahead of animal welfare, food safety regulations, and their own personal safety.
Third, ALDF filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accusing Tyson Foods of overstating the priority it puts on animal welfare in corporate and investor materials. The complaint 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.
- immediately decrease the speed at which chickens are slaughtered allowing time for each animal to be treated humanely and eliminating pile ups and jams in machinery that cause extreme suffering.
- set a firm date to convert a majority of its processing plants to "controlled atmosphere stunning." This process uses carbon dioxide or a blend of gases to cause the birds to lose consciousness before they are hung on the processing racks.
The assembly line model may work well for inanimate objects like cars and computers, but fails animals and workers alike. ALDF hopes to bring Tyson Foods to justice, so the company will improve animal welfare and worker safety in this Texas plant and all its facilities.