tape from chicken plant, pursue cruelty charges against Perdue
Updated Oct. 29, 2004, 10:56 a.m. ET
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — An animal advocacy
group wants prosecutors to press animal cruelty charges against Perdue
Farms Inc., after an activist secretly videotaped chickens flapping wildly
after their throats were slit on a processing line.
The activist worked from Sept. 16 to Oct.
1 at a processing plant in Showell, a complex that Perdue is closing next
week to streamline operations. The animal rights group filed a complaint
this week with the local sheriff and state's attorney's office.
The seven-minute videotape shows piles of
live chickens being shoved and thrown down a processing line. They are
shown hanging upside down as their throats are slit. Afterward, the cut
birds flap wildly.
"From the very first day our investigator
worked, he saw animal cruelty on a regular basis," said Paul Shapiro,
campaigns director for the nonprofit Compassion Over Killing.
The group says it will use the tape to press
KFC to require humane animal treatment by its suppliers, which include
Salisbury-based Perdue. KFC officials said Thursday they purchase only
2 percent of their products from Perdue; both companies said none of Showell's
chickens go to KFC, a subsidiary of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc.
Perdue officials say they saw no "intentional
cruelty" in the videotape, and that the workers have since been shown
how to handle the animals with more care.
"There are some incidents in the video
in which associates should have handled birds with greater care, and we
have counseled those associates," said Bruce Stewart-Brown, a veterinarian
who serves as Perdue's vice president of food safety and quality.
But the animal rights group believes footage
and daily logs kept by its investigator show enough evidence of inhumane
treatment to merit prosecution under Maryland's animal cruelty statute.
State's attorney Joel Todd's office said
prosecutors wouldn't handle the case until it was investigated by deputies.
Worcester County Sheriff Charles Martin was out of the office and unavailable
The Showell plant processes 25.5 million
chickens a year. Perdue is the third-largest poultry producer in the United