United Poultry Concerns
Promoting the compassionate and respectful
treatment of domestic fowl

PO Box 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(757) 678-7875 • FAX (757) 678-5070

01 April 2003

Karen Davis (00)1-757-678-7875

United Poultry Concerns Calls on Tyson Foods, KFC, and the National Chicken Council to Improve Bird Welfare and Set Policies Prohibiting Deliberate Cruelty to Chickens

Machipongo, VA – The chicken advocacy organization United Poultry Concerns (UPC) sent letters on March 26, 2003 to Tyson Foods in Springdale, Arkansas, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Louisville, Kentucky, and the National Chicken Council (NCC) in Washington DC, urging them to set welfare standards for chickens, including policies prohibiting employee abuse of chickens. Tyson is the main supplier of chicken products to KFC, and the NCC is the chicken industry’s primary trade association.

In an affidavit signed on January 30, 2003 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, former Tyson employee Virgil Butler said that the Tyson chicken slaughter plant where he worked the nightshift for five years in Grannis, Arkansas, from 1997 to 2002, was a “nightmare.”

Butler described the intentional scalding of chickens who struggled so violently in the tanks that their bones broke and their eyeballs burst from the sockets. He described the intentional suffocation of chickens, the deliberate breaking of the legs of larger chickens to fit the shackles instead of adjusting the shackles, the dismemberment of chickens and running over them with a forklift for fun, and blowing them up with dry ice bombs for fun. Butler said these intentional cruelties were “just a part of a regular night’s work.”

Believing such cruelties are commonplace in the chicken industry, which is unregulated, United Poultry Concerns is urging Tyson, KFC, and the NCC to develop standards of employee conduct to the birds, to post these standards in the slaughter plants in the appropriate languages, and to make these standards a major part of all employee training programs. We are urging that the working environment be improved to eliminate the “frustration and outright rage” Butler said contributes to birds being targeted for abuse.

UPC is urging Tyson, KFC, and the NCC to improve the industry’s treatment of chickens, including the provision of natural light and fresh air in the poultry houses, space for each bird to walk freely in fresh litter instead of in ammoniated feces, and to stop the forced rapid growth of chickens. Chickens can no longer walk normally due to lameness, pain, and metabolic disorders, yet the February 2003 issue of the trade magazine WATT Poultry USA says the “rate of broiler [chicken] growth and final market weights continue to increase.” In an email to UPC on February 20, 2003, a resident of Siloam Springs, Arkansas said chickens being raised for Simmons Foods “at 5 weeks can hardly stand because their legs are so weak and with no natural light or exercise their joints are too soft to carry the weight.”

In addition, we are calling on Tyson Foods, KFC, and the NCC to replace the use of paralytic electric shock equipment (misnamed “stunners”) in the slaughterhouses with gas-based technology that will kill the birds in the transport crates prior to shackling, thus sparing them the pain and stress of live shackling, neck cutting, and for millions of chickens each year, being scalded alive.

Poultry welfare specialist Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Ontario wrote in 1997 that his observation of chickens entering a tunnel containing a mixture of 30% carbon dioxide, 60% argon, 8% nitrogen, and 2% oxygen convinced him that this is “the most stress-free, humane method of killing poultry ever developed.” He said the birds were quiet, they remained in the transport crates until dead, and the procedure was “fast, painless and efficient,” with no risk of recovery from unconsciousness.

“We promote a vegan diet,” says UPC President Karen Davis. “But billions of chickens can’t wait. They need relief now from preventable suffering. Without federal laws to protect these birds, it is up to the corporations that own them to act. That is what we are asking for.”

For Virgil Butler’s formal complaint:

For UPC’s letters to Tyson Foods, KFC, and the National Chicken Council:

For information on poultry slaughter: http://www.UPC-online.org/slaughter/

For information on the poultry industry:

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.UPC-online.org.

Contact: United Poultry Concerns, Karen Davis, 757-678-7875

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