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Rats are the least of KFC's problems--and other chicken operations

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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Long before customers slapped "Kentucky Fried Rats" and "Rats. It's what's for dinner" signs on the door of the shuttered KFC/Taco Bell in New York City last month, PETA said there's something rotten at KFC.

Employees at a Pilgrim's Pride plant in Moorefield, West Virginia--a KFC supplier--were videotaped stomping, kicking and slamming chickens against walls with impunity leading to the current PETA boycott of KFC supported by Pam Anderson and Al Sharpton.

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Another group, Compassion Over Killing, found similar abuses at a Perdue plant in Showell, Maryland where chickens were processed while still alive and "flapping wildly" according to the Associated Press.

And Virgil Butler who worked on the kill floor and as a "live hanger" at the Tyson plant in Grannis, AK for five years testified that chickens routinely miss the killing machine because the line runs so fast and "are scalded alive."

"When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads," he wrote in an affidavit to Arkansas officials in 2003. "Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they've struggled so much in the tank."

(In an email, Ed Nicholson at Tyson confirmed that birds "enter the feather picking machinery without having been killed" but pointed out that "USDA inspectors condemn them" which is "recorded against the performance standards of the plant, so managers have incentives to ensure it does not occur." Whew.)

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But it took the image of gentle Trappist monks debeaking and starving their egg laying flock, well, mindfully, as a PETA video charges to get the nation talking about chicken treatment.

"PETA's video implies that the monks practice beak trimming, even though the abbey receives its hens with beaks already trimmed," says an editorial on

"Furthermore, PETA ignores some basics about animal welfare. As one welfare expert told the [New York] Times about beak trimming: 'I've seen the alternative, and, believe me, it's much worse.'"

[Beak trimming, the removal of a young bird's beak with a hot knife, is done to prevent over-crowding caused cannibalism. It results in "acute pain, perhaps constant pain and stress" according to the United Egg Producers (UEP) who certified the monks' operation, bleeding, dehydration, the inability to eat or drink and the extinguishing of many of the animal's natural behaviors if the animal survives.]

"What's more, PETA ignores the monks' obvious concern for the animals' welfare," continues the editorial. "The monastery's abbot told the Times that his brethren 'had been known to sing to the birds.'"

The monks' force molting their flock--starving them to jump start another egg laying cycle--has also been defended.

"While starving certainly sounds unpleasant, a 'brother' who appeared on a secretly taped PETA video compared it to fasting," writes Scott Morris of the Decatur Daily in Alabama.

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"While fasting can serve as an impetus for a deep spiritual experience, it apparently has the added benefit of causing hens to lay more eggs. But the abbey chickens were allegedly forced to observe this religious practice rather than participating of their own free will," continues Morris.

"While this may cross some ethical line in the land of religious freedom, it doesn't actually kill the chicken. And you know the ancient Chinese proverb: 'That which does not kill the chicken, makes the chicken stronger.'"

Hah hah.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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