The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) said its footage showed shocking systematic abuses of both workers and animals.
“The overall attitude towards the chickens at the Tyson plant is that they were thought of as objects and not living and feeling beings,” said the activist who filmed the footage. “They were nothing more than a commodity. It didn’t seem to matter to anyone if the chickens were hurt or killed in the pre-slaughter process. It was just part of business.”
The activist said the speeds at which the processing line was operated meant it was impossible to treat the birds humanely as they were slaughtered. She alleged that sometimes the heads of the birds were removed while they were still alive because the line was moving too fast to ensure they were dead first. She also said the conditions were unsanitary.
“The chickens were brought in on a conveyor belt that was covered in dirt and faeces. The conditions in the live hang are filthy and horrendous for both the people and the animals.
“The absolute worst thing I had to do while working at Tyson was to rip the heads off live chickens. You could tell the chickens were alive and scared as you put their heads into the hook,” she claimed.
ALDF said Tyson should decrease the speed at which chickens were slaughtered to allow time for each animal to be treated humanely and eliminate pile-ups and jams in machinery that caused suffering. It also called on the company to introduce controlled atmosphere stunning, which uses carbon dioxide or a blend of gases to cause the birds to lose consciousness before they are hung on the processing racks.
In the meantime, the animal rights group wants the company to be prosecuted and called on three separate federal agencies, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to investigate Tyson.
In a statement, Tyson Foods said its processing lines operated well within legal speed limits. A spokesperson said: “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 time-frame we believe this video was shot, we have no record of any employees reporting claims of animal handling violations.”