Shocking footage shows baby chicks crushed to death in meat factory

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Chicks like this one were 'deprived of warmth and comfort', according to PETA
Chicks like this one were 'deprived of warmth and comfort', according to PETA

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Undercover footage obtained by animal rights group PETA has exposed serious cruelty inflicted on baby chickens ground up alive at a North Carolina hatchery allegedly operated by Sanderson Farms. 

The video shows young baby chicks who hatched later than expected left to suffer in plastic crates as they were deemed surplus to requirements. Some chicks were forced into a metal macerator – a machine that pulverises the baby chickens in a high-speed metallic grinder.

Chicks that missed the macerator’s entry were left to die underneath the machine. One chick appeared to have a broken neck.

PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) footage is alleged to have been clandestinely filmed at a massive poultry hatchery run by Sanderson Farms – which claims to be the third largest poultry producer in the US.

Factory ‘terror’

The company is believed to supply poultry meat to US retail chain Kroger, foodservice business Sysco, and restaurant groups Arby’s and Chili’s. A Nasdaq-listed company, Sanderson Farms processes close to 10 million chickens per week, has annual sales of more than $2.8bn (£2.1bn) and employs 12,000-plus staff. Sanderson Farms was not able to respond to multiple requests for comment.

Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, said the only thing day-old chicks knew at Sanderson Farms was the “terror of being left alone for hours as they slowly died or were ground up alive.​”

The National Chicken Council, however, was quick to condemn the actions of PETA, accusing the animal welfare group of exploitation.

These live chicks were ground up in macerator
These live chicks were ground up at the food factory

‘Vegetarian agenda’ slammed

“PETA is trying to exploit a form of euthanasia – considered acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Pathologists, Federation of Animal Science Societies, Agriculture Canada, World Organisation for Animal Health and the European Council – in another attempt to advance its vegetarian agenda,” Tom Super, National Chicken Council senior vice president of communications said.

Most broiler hatcheries hatch hundreds of thousands of chicks every week, if not more. The vast majority are healthy and go on to the farm to grow and thrive. There is a very small percentage of chicks, unfortunately, that are hatched with an illness or some other adverse condition. While only a small percentage, chicken companies take every measure to prevent this from happening. When it does, some companies may use maceration in order to humanely euthanise a sick or injured chick in order to prevent further suffering.​”

Footage was obtained by an undercover source in late 2015, before North Carolina’s infamous ‘ag-gag’ law, called the Property Protection Act, came into effect on New Year’s Day 2016. The law – subject to a legal challenge in the US Court of Appeals​ by a bloc of animal rights’ groups – gives meat companies the right to prosecute anyone who documents animal cruelty on their property without permission. PETA, one of the groups challenging the law, has been unable to obtain more footage from the hatchery as a result of the ag-gag law and filed a federal lawsuit in January against the gagging order.

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