Iowa Public Television


Humane Society Sues USDA Over Poultry Slaughter

posted on November 25, 2005

Chickens and turkeys should be covered by the same law as cows, pigs and other animals when they are slaughtered, the Humane Society of the United States said in a lawsuit filed this week against the Agriculture Department.

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.

Tags: agriculture animals chickens controversy courts livestock news pigs poultry turkeys USDA