Before becoming T-bone steaks or pork ribs, livestock must be stunned or otherwise made unable to feel pain, according to the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. However, the Agriculture Department maintains the 47-year-old law does not apply to poultry.
The Humane Society argues that common methods of slaughtering poultry are not only cruel; they increase the risk of contamination that leads to food poisoning. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Typically, birds arriving at a slaughterhouse are dumped from their crates onto conveyor belts, and then shackled upside down on a conveyor line, the Humane Society said. The Humane Slaughtering Act specifically prohibits shackling and hanging of conscious animals by their legs.
Birds then are dipped into electrically charged water to stun them, their necks are cut by machine, and they are dipped into a scalding vat to loosen feathers, according to the lawsuit.