On Thursday, the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing released a video showing chicken handlers for Tyson Food flagrantly abusing chickens at three of the company’s Virginia facilities. The Washington Post reports that animal control officials in at least two of the three Virginia counties the facilities in the video are located in have launched investigations.
The footage, shot undercover, shows handlers beating, throwing, kicking, suffocating, and inhumanely killing chickens. At one point, a worker in the video warns another standing on a chicken’s head that they could be filmed by animal rights activists. “You can’t let nobody see you do that,” he says. “They’ll take you to court for that.”
The video also shows handlers forcing plastic tubes into the beaks of some chickens. According to Tyson’s statement about the video, the practice is intended to prevent male chickens from eating the feed of female chickens.
In that statement, Tyson vice president of sustainable food production Christine Daugherty says that ten of the workers seen in the video have been fired. The statement also says that Tyson had already begun phasing out the “beak modification” seen in the video before the video was made and will end it at the remaining two facilities immediately. The company says it is currently meeting with and will retrain all employees who handle live birds. According to USA Today, Tyson made more than $10 billion selling poultry last year.
According to the newspaper, this is the fifth time in just over a year that animal rights activists have infiltrated Tyson-affiliated plants to film abuse. The tactic has scared agribuisness and agribuisness-friendly politicians enough that “ag-gag” laws banning the undercover filming of inhumane practices have been passed in in Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, and Utah. In a victory for animal rights activists, one such law in Idaho was struck down in federal court as a First Amendment violation last year. As Slate’s Josh Voorhees reported at that time, similar lawsuits in other states were being backed by a coalition of activists including the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, the Center for Food Safety, and various media organizations.