October 5, 2010
Cruel Poultry Slaughter
Nearly all chickens and most turkeys in the U.S. are slaughtered using a system that's rife with animal welfare, worker safety, and economic problems.
Birds are first dumped or pulled from transport crates and snapped into shackles, often causing broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging. Next, they are shocked with electrified water; the majority are paralyzed but may not be rendered unconscious.
Some miss the water tank and aren’t even paralyzed. Birds then have their throats cut, but according to the USDA, millions miss the blade and drown in tanks of scalding water while conscious and able to feel pain.
An alternative system called controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK) or stunning (CAS) works by killing birds while they are still in their transport containers using a mixture of gases. In most CAK systems, live birds are never dumped or pulled from crates. They are never handled or shackled while alive, and there is no chance that they will be conscious when their throats are cut or when they enter the scalding tank.
H. Scott Hurd, DVM, Ph.D., the former acting undersecretary for the USDA's Office of Food Safety, states, "The general consensus among many researchers in the United States, European Union (EU), and Japan is that CAS is more humane than the current method of electrical stunning[.]"
The European Food Safety Authority, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, European Commission, and experts like Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Ian Duncan, and Dr. Mohan Raj have written about the benefits of CAK, which include improved working conditions. Read the HSUS' summary of existing science on this issue here.
Progress in North America
Numerous major retailers have taken proactive steps on this issue. Safeway, Quiznos, Harris Teeter, Ruby Tuesday, Winn-Dixie, and other companies have begun sourcing CAK-processed turkey. Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Chipotle, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Hardees, Subway, Sonic, and Wendy’s give purchasing preference to chicken suppliers that switch to CAK. KFC Canada has committed to exclusively purchase CAK-processed chicken by 2016.