The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to speed up poultry processing lines is now in its final stages of finalization and marks yet another disappointing move from this government agency.
By speeding up poultry processing lines, more birds will certainly be boiled alive as those who are not stunned and killed will suffer an even more agonizing death when they are dunked into a tub of scalding water, which is intended to help “de-feather” the birds.
Nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys out of almost 10 billion birds are boiled alive in this manner each year in U.S. slaughterhouses. According to The Washington Post, an average of 825,000 chickens and 18,000 turkeys have met their death this way over the last five years.
The deaths of these birds are easily spotted as their skin changes to a bright red color because their bodies were not drained of blood like others during slaughter, reports The Washington Post.
The USDA’s proposal would increase poultry processing line speeds from 140 chickens and 45 turkeys per minute to 175 and 55, respectively. They say that this move will help remove pathogens from the food supply such as salmonella.
Earth to the USDA: Salmonella and other food pathogens are most frequently caused by poor handling and treatment commonly found in meat processing facilities and you’re now going to make all this worse!
“One of the greatest risks for inhumane treatment is line speed. You can’t always stop the abuse at these speeds,” said Mohan Raj, a British-based poultry-slaughter expert who helps advise the European Food Safety Authority, to The Washington Post.
Numerous USDA inspectors assigned to processing plants have witnessed this cruel treatment of birds, who are flipped alive upside down and have their legs shackled. These birds are then dipped into an electrified water bath for stunning then face the knife that slits their throat and should kill them before entering the scalding water tank.
This process is rife with flaws though, and undeniably inhumane. The stun bath voltage is often too low to stun all the birds, and if the slaughter knife misses them, they are submerged into boiling water fully conscious.
Two dozen chicken and turkey plants have already adopted the new line procedure under the USDA pilot program called the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), and if the proposal passes in the White House, many more plants will be added to this list.
According to The Washington Post, in a statement about the proposal, National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super said that the industry considers “the welfare of the birds the top priority.”
Anyone up-to-date on the inner workings of factory farms knows that this statement is a complete lie. In no part of the factory farming process is the welfare of the birds taken into consideration.
From babies being ground up alive and packed and dirty living quarters to the horrendous slaughter process just described above, every single aspect of factory farming is cruel.
The dictionary definition for “factory farm” or “CAFO” (confined animal feeding operation, as the industry calls it) could easily be replaced with this one word: inhumane.
The USDA’s new proposal on speed lines is infuriating in and of itself, but there is another part of it that is receiving a bit less attention but is equally shocking. If passed, the proposal will also replace 40 percent of government inspectors with company employees – a move which will certainly cover up many abuses at these industrialized farms.
A similar plan as this one was proposed in early 2012 as a cost-cutting measure, although animal advocates knew this reeked of trouble since the industry would then be largely unregulated.
And now, we are here a second time.
The USDA’s new move is another poor attempt to “safeguard” the public. What it does instead is place industry interests above that of the public’s, and it will certainly promote additional animal abuse to occur and become “acceptable practices” at poultry plants.
Image source: USDA/Flickr