UPC President and AVAR Veterinary Consultant Publish Replies to Veterinarian Who Calls Wood Chipper a Humane Death for Thousands of Chickens. Letters and Action Alerts Follow.
On June 12, veterinary cowboy humorist Baxter Black published an opinion in the Amarillo Globe, "On the Edge of Common Sense: Wood chipper a humane death for thousands of chickens."
Replies by UPC president Karen Davis and AVAR veterinary consultant Holly Cheever ran on June 20 (Davis) and June 21 (Cheever), as follows:
Karen Davis, PhD (Amarillo Globe 6/20/04):
I want to clarify how the hens in the California wood-chipper episode actually died in February 2003, based on the testimony and type of machinery that was used to kill them. The affidavits contained in the San Diego County Department of Animal Services report explain that, in that episode, combinations of live and dead chickens, hundreds at a time, were tossed and piled into the bucket of a front-end loader tractor, and that inside the machine a hydraulic ram pushed the chickens toward a pair of large feed wheels that crushed them and fed them into a pulverizing device by means of a large number of rapidly rotating metal hammers. The chickens went into the machinery every which way: head, breast, wings, legs, and beak.
The hens were treated like logs, and their death was ugly and cruel. The veterinarians involved violated their oath in recommending a procedure that, according to an AVMA press release (04/18/03), the "American Veterinary Medical Association does not endorse, recommend, nor approve for the euthanasia of poultry."
Holly Cheever, DVM (Amarillo Globe 6/21/04)
As a practicing veterinarian who cares for poultry in addition to other species, I would like to respond to Baxter Black's opinion article of 6/12/04 defending the use of a wood chipper to kill 30,000 hens in California. This brutal death and the astonishing advice given to the poultry rancher by Dr. Gregg Cutler to kill hens in this unauthorized manner has so offended the veterinary community that many members of the American Veterinary Medical Association are demanding Dr, Cutler's removal from the AVMA's Animal Welfare Committee.
Dr. Black's article, written in his trademark tongue-in-cheek style, makes light of the birds' suffering because of a misunderstanding of how a wood chipper works. As anyone familiar with this machine can tell you, the objects to be chipped don't flow through the chute in a neat progression, "head-first" and one at a time. Rather, they are sent in a jumbled pile, entering the blade areas at different angles, frequently jamming so that the blocked pieces are trapped as the blades slice at them repeatedly until the blockage is relieved.
Now picture this happening to a chicken, who, as pet chicken owners can tell you, are very definitely sentient beings (able to feel pain and fear) with well developed behaviors, personalities, and affections. If the hen has had the good fortune to enter the chute at a precise head-first angle, she may be lucky enough to be decapitated instantly so that her only suffering is the intense terror of being thrust into a noisy machine reeking of blood. However, the odds are against her: more commonly, as birds are thrown by the legs and wings into the chute, they may go through feet or breast first and experience the pain of having their lower legs and bodies sliced repeatedly until the head is reached. Even more unthinkable, they will jam so that they are trapped into a position where the blades chop them again and again until someone relieves the jam.
This method of "euthanasia" (Greek for "good death") is so repugnant to the AVMA that it has been mentioned on the AVMA website as a policy which the AVMA emphatically eschews. It is not in the AVMA's 2000 Report of the AVMA's Panel on Euthanasia which outlines all the acceptable methods of killing animals while satisfying the requirement to make the death painless. As a member (ironically) of the AVMA's Animal Welfare committee representing the poultry industry, it would seem incumbent upon Dr. Cutler to advise his clients by the tenets of AVMA welfare policy.
I understand that Dr. Black's humorous style caused him to speculate on other methods - boating accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, hit-and-run deaths - but I gently remind him that the best way to make our species treat one another with greater respect is to expand our circle of compassion to include all sentient beings. - Holly Cheever, DVM
What Can I Do?
Tell the AVMA to remove Gregg Cutler, DVM, from their Animal Welfare Committee immediately. Cutler violated his veterinary oath in advising the use of the wood chipper to kill unwanted hens.
Tell the AVMA to adopt Resolution 2 submitted by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights requesting the AVMA to oppose forced molting through the use of food and/or water withdrawal. This is the 6 th year that AVMA delegates have been asked to oppose the practice, which the AVMA refers to as "induced molting." The Resolution observes that food deprivation is inhumane when not medically required and that alternative methods exist to induce a molt. Once again the AVMA Board is recommending disapproval of this humane Resolution which will be considered at the AVMA House of Delegates annual session in Philadelphia July 23-24, 2004.
Contact the AVMA by writing to:
Dr. Jack O. Walther, President
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150