Even as slaughterhouses emerge as pandemic hotspots, USDA grants record number of waivers to dial up chicken slaughter speeds
The federal government has handed out a record number of waivers this month for chicken slaughterhouses to dial up the already dangerous speeds at which they kill birds. The development not only raises animal welfare concerns, but it comes at a time when slaughterhouses have emerged as major clusters for the spread of the coronavirus because of their cramped, unsanitary working conditions—conditions that line speed increases will only worsen.
So far in April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued waivers to 15 chicken slaughterhouses, allowing them to speed up the rate of killing from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute—about three birds per second. This is a significant increase in the waivers issued each month since the new program went into effect in 2018, and it adversely affects millions more animals. In the period between January and March this year, the agency only issued a single waiver.
The USDA’s decision came just weeks after a coalition of groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, sued the agency in February for allowing the increase in line speeds. We are concerned because slaughtering animals at this rate increases suffering for birds in their final moments, creates even more dangerous conditions for workers and compromises the health and safety of consumers.
At such high speeds, workers struggling to keep up with the rapidly moving slaughter lines grab the chickens and slam them into shackles, injuring the animals’ fragile legs. Some birds miss the throat-cutting blade and enter the scalder—a tank of extremely hot water—alive and fully conscious, resulting in a terrible death.
In recent weeks, slaughterhouses have also been in the news for their role in exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic. A South Dakota pig slaughterhouse has been linked to nearly 900 cases of the disease, making it the single largest cluster in the entire country. At least 2,700 cases have been tied to 60 meatpacking plants in 23 states, and at least 17 workers in these plants have died. Some slaughterhouses, such as the one in South Dakota and Tyson’s largest U.S. pig slaughterhouse, have finally shuttered their doors, but many remain open even after workers have tested positive for the virus.
The United Food and Commercial Worker International Union has warned that allowing slaughterhouses to speed up guarantees that workers will be more crowded along the meatpacking line, and therefore at greater risk of either catching or spreading the virus.
These slaughterhouses are also dangerous for the communities where they are located. A USA Today analysis found that counties with some of America’s largest beef, pork and poultry processing plants have coronavirus infection rates higher than those in 75% of other U.S. counties.
With all this evidence, it is mindboggling that the USDA is giving out more waivers, choosing to help fatten the bottom lines of corporate interests over animal welfare, food safety and the safety of the agency’s own inspectors and slaughterhouse employees.
Last week, our legal team warned the USDA that we would amend our lawsuit and take steps to seek a quick ruling following the increased waivers, and the agency now appears to have relented slightly. Yesterday, a spokesperson for the USDA told a Bloomberg reporter that it has “stopped accepting additional requests” from chicken slaughterhouses to operate at higher speeds.
But this is not good enough—we are asking that the agency revoke all of the waivers it has already issued. Our federal government should never prioritize industry profits over animal welfare, worker safety and public health, and especially not in the midst of a global pandemic.
Ya no podemos permitir que sigan maltratando la silla de los animalitos abusando de ellos
El último párrafo del artículo resume categóricamente el sentir de cualquier persona consciente y responsable: ningún gobierno debe priorizar jamás las ganancias de la industria sobre el bienestar de los animales y la saluda pública, eso es inaceptable, más aún en los tiempos que corren y con las cifras a mano que dan cuenta de las lapidarias condiciones que se viven en esos lugares infernales.
IT SHOULD ALL BE STOPPED . ALL THE CRUELTY, THE HEARTLESSNESS, THE INHUMANE TREATMENT TO “”ALL”” ANIMALS. THESE ANIMALS DO NOT DESERVE IT AND WANT TO LIVE THE SAME AS YOU AND I. AND THE TORTURE THAT GOES ON BEHIND CLOSED DOORS MAKE ME SICK TO MY STOMACH. HOW CAN WE AS “SO CALLED HUMAN BEINGS” BE CAPABLE OF SUCH BARBARIC CRUELTY TO HELPLESS ANIMALS DAY IN AND DAY OUT AND SLEEP AT NIGHT ??? WHEN DID WE LOSE ARE HUMANITY ???
I totally agree with you!! 100%
Its heartbreaking to see these poor chickens, who are seen as a profit item, void of feeling pain. And living in filthy conditions. And slaughtered in horrendous conditions. All these companies should be shut and bought to account now!!!
I couldnt agree more
Big business mindset compromises the “human” heart. I pray for all who have let money rule them over the “saving grace of GOD in JESUS!:
Can we all sign a petition to slow the slaughter assembly line? My daughter just gave me 5 chicks, I have never raised any before, and now reading about poor chickens, and what they go through- makes me just cry…I don’t think I will be able to eat chicken much longer…
THIS IS DESPICABLE AND CRUEL. I DETEST THESE CRUEL ACTIONS TOWARD GOD’S CREATURES.
HUMANS ARE RECEIVING THEIR JUST KARMA FOR THE WAY ANIMALS ARE TREATED, THE WAY THEY WORSHIP MONEY AND TECHNOLOGY INSTEAD OF PRACTICING THE WAY JESUS TAUGHT… KINDNESS AND LOVE. 🙏🏻💗✝️🐾
Disgusting!!!!!!! When will this end??? Humans are the worst animals🤬🤬🤬
I wonder how many of these protesters eat chicken wings, chicken noodle soup, etc? Yes, I am horrified at the USDA agency’s slackness by issuing waivers. When did we become so heartless? When we focused on the love of money!
Since we are not going to stop eating or using chicken, my opinion is that the killing should be done humanely for the benefit of the animals and the employees.
Don’t forget, if you have a pet, chicken parts (feathers, bones, blood)are the main ingredient; even the ones labeled as “beef”.
This is outrageous, and downright cruel and inhuman! All for the love of money!
.This lethal Cotonavirus is only one very small example, and a taste of how we humans will end up paying for what we do to animals. Thry are God’s creation!
..More to come!
This merciless torture have been going for decades and decades behind doors. Until people realized that we are the one who can do the change, this atrocities will continue generation to generation. Please let’s start a new generation without eating meat. Let’s stop the suffering and torture. Just let them free!!
Perhaps this time of Corona Virus will help turn many of us away at last from the killing of helpless creatures to satisfy our learned appetites.
This is disgusting humans barbaric cruelty to these animals humans are evil 👿👿💩
As if this wasn’t horrible enough, in a return to Great Depression Era tactics. our government is now stepping in and culling viable animals from farmers herds and now importing meat. Who know how safe that meat is? The methods used to kill the animals are horrificbut our government says it’s the cheapest way. Here’s examples of the way the kill culled poultry: In addition to gassing whole building full of poultry, “Approved methods for slaughtering poultry include slow suffocation by covering them with foam, or by shutting off the ventilation into the barns. Foaming means covering hens with a layer of foam that blocks their airways, gradually suffocating them over several minutes. Ventilation shutdown, meanwhile, although described by the AVMA as “not preferred”, is one of the cruellest, but cheapest options…” “Shutting down broiler chicken house ventilation systems means animals die of organ failure due to overheating, as temperatures quickly rise.”