ROCKINGHAM — A national animal rights group is calling for an investigation of a local poultry processing plant following the release of a report from federal inspectors.
Last week, the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals sent a letter to Richmond County District Attorney Reece Saunders, asking him to investigate and possibly file charges against a Perdue Farms employee for reportedly leaving chickens still alive on the floor after their necks had been snapped and tossing live birds in the scald tank.
(Note: The USDA report lists the facility as Perdue Foods, LLC.)
In the letter to Saunders, PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden cites a recently released report from the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, which also includes site visits to other poultry companies like Mountaire Farms and House of Raeford.
The inspector noted that on June 2, a Perdue employee “twisted the neck” of a chicken “repeatedly” without it dying.
The inspector continued:
“When he placed it on the floor, it is alive for more than 3 minutes. He picked up another bird and did it again in the same way and when he placed it on the floor the bird still alive for more than 4 minutes. The bird was kicking, breathing and eyes are blinking. He did this action 3 consecutive times and it was unsuccessful to quickly dislocate the muscle in the neck area without suffering. After observing these actions, I immediately stop the team members from continuously doing it. Twisting a bird’s neck to make it unconscious immediately is not a proper process which causing birds to suffer before its death which result of repeatedly mistreated by the establishment personnel.”
A few days later, on June 6, the inspector reported seeing a live bird in the scald tank “with its neck bent, eyes wide open and appeared aware of its surroundings.”
The inspector added:
“This red bird displayed a cherry red appearance of the entire carcass, no cut on the neck, and a swollen/engorged head which was cherry red/purple in color. Agency regulation requires that poultry be handled in a manner that is consistent with Good Commercial Practice (GCP), and that they do not die from causes other than slaughter. It is the establishment’s responsibility to ensure that the birds are slaughtered in accordance with 9 CFR 381.65 (b). Poultry must be slaughtered in accordance with good commercial practices in a manner that will result in thorough bleeding of the carcass and ensure that breathing has stopped prior to scalding.”
The report also shows that at least five live birds “entered the scald tank” between 8:17 and 8:33 p.m. on May 11.
“These disturbing reports paint a picture of indifference to animals’ suffering, with chickens strangled and left to die in agony and others drowned or burned to death,” Paden said in a statement. “PETA is calling on District Attorney Saunders to step in and prevent more illegal suffering by investigating and bringing appropriate charges — and reminds everyone that the only humane meal is a vegan one.”
Saunders said that his office doesn’t investigate. However, he said that he did refer the matter to the Rockingham Police Department Friday morning.
Diana Souder, director of Corporate Communications and Brand PR for Perdue Farms, said the company takes any reports of violations seriously.
“As the industry leader in animal welfare, the care for our animals extends from before they are born, through the time they are harvested at our facilities to become safe products for human consumption,” Souder said in a statement. “We take all reports of animal mishandling very seriously, including the USDA Inspector’s observations of this incident. We are conducting additional training for our associates who handle and process live animals. Our most recent third-party audit occurred on September 27, for which we received a score of 100% compliance.”
According to PETA spokeswoman Nicole Meyer, “PETA has contacted local law enforcement agencies on approximately 200 occasions to share details of cruelty to farmed animals at slaughterhouses, as documented by the USDA,” within the past seven years.
However, Meyer added, this is the first time the organization has called for an investigation regarding the Rockingham Perdue plant.