Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The Humane Society filed a lawsuit Monday against the USDA, saying that turkeys and chickens should be unable to feel pain before they're slaughtered.

A spokesman for the poultry industry called the suit "a publicity stunt" for Thanksgiving.

Is that they best response they can come up with? So what if it is a publicity stunt? Good idea to file suit right now, as most Americans prepare to chow down on the basted birds.

The lawsuit says poultry deserve the same rights as cattle and hogs. Although the process is not exactly a picnic for the latter.

Upon entering the processing line at the slaughterhouse, single file, cattle are typically "stunned" by a captive bolt stunner that shoots a 7-inch bolt into their forehead. This knocks most of them unconscious. Both Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's excellent article "Power Steer" describe the slaughter process for cattle. I've read that hogs are stunned before slaughter with an electrical stun gun of some kind, I'm not sure exactly how that works. Although the factory hog farmer we interviewed for Veggie Revolution said that captive bolt stunners are used on hogs sometimes.

Anyway, I know that chickens are strung up perfectly conscious by both feet along a conveyor line that dunks them into electrified water, which causes them to empty their bowels. So the bath is essentially fecal soup, which the poultry then inhale. The conveyor line then pulls them out of the water and moves them along to machines that decapitate them one by one, then dunk them in scalding water. All done by machines.

Humane Society Sues USDA in Behalf of Turkeys and Chickens

I called a Tyson plant to ask if I could have a tour of the chicken "processing" floor. At first the plant manager told me yes. But when I called back a week later, I was told that "after the Sept 11 attacks we can no longer give tours." Right. Well, I haven't given up.

So how would you stun a chicken or turkey to make it insensible? In a humane way, that is. Can't use drugs, they would be in the meat. I don't see how that could work. Jeez, time to move on to a different subject.

Meanwhile I'm glad I don't have turkey on the menu tomorrow.

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