Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Breaking News: First-Ever Footage of Hen Slaughterhouse Shows Egregious Violations

January 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

Eggs. Billions upon billions of eggs are consumed in the United States each year. Most consumers buys eggs by the dozen and crack them open without giving a second thought to where they come from, much less what happens to the hens when they can no longer lay them.

Today, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released the first-ever footage from a slaughterhouse for spent hens. The footage was taken by an undercover investigator who spent 57 days documenting what happens to the 85,000 hens killed each day at just one slaughterhouse – Butterfield Foods in the state of Minnesota.

The most egregious abuse uncovered was scalding hens while they were still alive. Hens are supposed to be dropped into an electrified water trough to render them unconscious before having their throats slit and being dropped into scalding tanks for feather removal, but that doesn’t always happen. In a thirty minute period, the HSUS investigator counted approximately 45 birds who were drowned alive in the scalding tanks. It’s the most grisly end possible for animals who spent their entire caged lives in a space smaller than a sheet of paper.

battery cage hens

Hens in battery cages

Even though chickens and turkeys represent 9 out of 10 animals who are slaughtered in the U.S., the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act exempts them. Nonetheless, HSUS invoked Minnesota’s anti-cruelty code to file a complaint with the state. The organization also filed a complaint with the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service on the grounds that Butterfield is violating the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

The hens slaughtered at Butterfield are transported in crates from factory farms all over the country. During their long journey, the hens, who are already battered after spending their lives in battery cages, are deprived of food, water, space to move and protection from the weather. The investigator documented birds who arrived dead; with broken bones; and covered in feces.

When the trucks arrive at Butterfield, workers grab the frantic hens out of the crates with a metal hook, shackle them upside down, and send them on a conveyer belt from an electrified water trough to a neck cutting station to a scalding tank. The investigator witnessed hens attempting to right themselves; hens who missed the electrified trough; and hens who had their necks sliced while fully conscious. Some hens arrived alive and bleeding at the scalding tank where they were boiled.

Butterfield Foods

Butterfield Foods

Who eats spent hens? Their bodies, which were bred to lay eggs, have very little meat. In addition, hens often have broken bones which splinter into the flesh. Paul Shapiro, HSUS’ VP for Farm Animal Protection, says that most this low-grade meat, valued at 2 cents/bird, is used for farm animals and pet food. At Butterfield, however, the meat is canned for human consumption and sold to discount stores.

butterfield chicken

Hens can live for over a decade, but, on factory farms, they are sent to the slaughterhouse at 12 – 18 months, which is when they stop laying eggs.

Your Turn

The best way to prevent this cruelty is to stop eating chickens and their eggs.  But you can also help by urging the United States Secretary of Agriculture  at the USDA to include poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.


Filed under: Food, Investigations
Tagged with: , , ,

Farmers Say Activists With Cameras Spread Disease on Factory Farms

December 10, 2014 by Leave a Comment


News & Opinion

In an effort to pass harsher laws to keep cameras out of factory farms, agribusinesses in Eastern Australia are claiming that activists pose a threat to “biosecurity” because they can spread disease to their animals. The factory farmers are not only attempting to hide animal abuse from the public, but they are also shifting the blame for disease outbreaks away from overcrowding and intensive confinement on their farms. If the “biosecurity” measure is passed, activists who enter farms illegally could face up to three years in jail or a $1.1 million fine.

This is not the first attempt by Australian agribusiness to pass American-style “ag gag” laws. In 2012, after several undercover investigations cast a negative spotlight on Australia’s wool and pork industries, a Senator in South Australia introduced the Surveillance Devices bill, which would have criminalized the taking of photos and video of “a legally operating animal enterprise.” It would have also required activists to turn over their videos to authorities within 48 hours. The bill’s sponsor claimed the law would “strengthen genuine animal welfare protections,” as if cameras harm animals. The bill was voted down, re-introduced with changes in July 2014 and voted down again.

In 2013, Australian farmers killed almost 500,000 egg laying hens during an outbreak of avian flu. At the time, no one blamed the outbreak on a cell phone camera.

Agribusiness attempts to shift blame for disease outbreaks from overcrowded barns to activists with cameras

Agribusiness attempts to shift blame for disease outbreaks from overcrowded barns to activists with cameras

Intensive confinement and overcrowding on factory farms spread diseases. Hidden cameras spread the truth. Criminalizing them will make horrific conditions for animals on factory farms even worse, as agribusiness will have no incentive to minimize abuse.

Hidden cameras hold famers accountable (Photo: PETA)

Hidden cameras hold famers accountable (Photo: PETA)

Factory farmers in Australia and around the world confine, mutilate, abuse and slaughter billions of farm animals each year, but they and the government officials in their pockets would like the public to think that activists with cameras are the criminals. History will be the judge.

U.S. Animal rights groups are fighting "ag-gag" bills

U.S. animal rights groups are fighting “ag-gag” bills


Filed under: Food, Investigations
Tagged with: , , ,

Attack on Camel Caught on Video

December 1, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

A live export company in Australia, already under investigation for egregious animal abuses, has been caught on camera attacking a camel who was unable to climb a steep ramp onto a transport ship.

Photo: Animals Australia

Photo: Animals Australia

Animals Australia, a group that has conducted many undercover investigations exposing live export atrocities, released the footage of a worker affiliated with Livestock Shipping Services illegally using an electric prod on the struggling camel.

At a time when opposition to live exports has reached a fever pitch due to the extreme abuse exposed in undercover investigations, the Australian government should be eliminating the trade altogether. Instead, it is working to expand the live exports and is in the midst of finalizing a deal to ship up to one million cattle per year to China.

Photo: Animals Australia

Australian sheep in Kuwait for home sacrifice (Photo: Animals Australia)

Activists in Australia face many daunting challenges in their campaign to end live exports. Both major political parties support the trade; the major TV networks rarely air the damning footage; and the powerful industry makes arguments that resonate with the public — that the farmers “love” their animals; that the abuses exposed are rare; and that middle-class jobs would be lost if live exports would be eliminated.

Australian cow in Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)

Australian cow in Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)

Until live exports are eliminated, people who advocate on behalf of animals will echo the words of Australian activist Simon Whitehouse: “There is no excuse for animal abuse. No matter how much money is involved, animals should never be subjected to the cruelty which is inherent and systemic to the Australian live export trade.”

As the number of animals exported increases, so does the number of activists. On November 30th, 700 people protested live exports in Perth, Australia.

Your Turn

Send a message to the Australian embassy in your country.

please visit Ban Live Export for more information about Australia’s grisly live export trade and to find other ways you can help.


Filed under: Food, Investigations
Tagged with: , ,

ALDF Reveals Carriage Driver “Hit & Runs” and Other Unreported Crashes

October 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

NYC carriage drivers have committed more than a dozen “hit & runs” over the past five years, according to allegations in police records that the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) obtained by court order from the City of New York. Jane Velez-Mitchell speaks to Chris Green, Legislative Director of ALDF, about the news:

One of 14 "hit & run" complaints filed with NYPD

One of 14 “hit & run” complaints filed with NYPD

At a NYCLASS press conference at City Hall announcing the reported “hit & runs,” ALDF’s Legislative Director Chris Green said that the group also discovered “several alarming incidents” that had not been publicly reported. In one instance, a child was rushed to the hospital after falling out of a carriage and being run over by a wheel. The police report stated that the victim “suffered injuries to stomach, chest and head.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces "hit & runs"

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces “hit & runs” at NYC press conference

In another incident, a carriage driver “was thrown to the ground” and found by police “laying in the street, not moving.” In the photo below, a  driver was ejected from carriage and hospitalized in a coma when his horse spooked and collided with a station wagon. Unlike many other accidents, this one was reported because witnesses took photos and informed the press and local advocacy groups.

Dead carriage horse

Crash in midtown shows danger of mixing horses and cars (photo: Catherine Nance)

With the help of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and the local office of Friends of Animals, the ALDF filed a successful lawsuit against the City of New York to release the “hit & run” and other records, which show that “children, cyclists, pedestrians, carriage drivers passengers and NYPD officers have been physically injured by accidents involving New York’s horse carriages.”

Tensions ran high at the press conference, as members of the opposition, including reporters who favor the industry, asked hostile questions of the speakers, including NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who spoke in favor of removing carriages from the streets.

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

The effort to ban horse-drawn carriages has been an uphill battle, in part because the NY Times, NY Post and Daily News have published editorials in support of the trade. Nonetheless, local and national animal rights groups continue to advocate relentlessly on behalf of the horses. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who agrees that carriages do not belong on NYC streets, has stated on multiple occasions that he intends to “end carriage rides” in NYC.

Your Turn

If you live in NYC, ask your Council Member to support the Mayor’s plan to end carriage rides in NYC

Sign the two petitions to ban horse-drawn carriages: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn CarriagesNYCLASS

To keep apprised of developments, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by sending an email to coalition@banhdc.org

Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS: The Truth Behind the Tradition that exposes the truth behind the tradition of NYC’s infamous horse-drawn carriage trade:


Filed under: Entertainment, Investigations
Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Will Pig Gestation Crates Be Banned in NJ?

October 28, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

NJ Governor Chris Christie has until early December to sign a bill banning gestation crates, the small cages that house sows (female breeding pigs) for most of their adult lives. According to the National Pork Producers Council, nine out of 10 sows in America are held in gestation crates.

gestation crates factory farm

Governor Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2013, claiming that pig farmers made a more persuasive argument than the activists. HSUS’ Matt Dominguez said his decision could have been based on political expedience: “The governor’s veto last year had more to do with presidential politics given that Iowa, the nation’s biggest pork production state, hosts the Republican caucuses come 2016.” The landscape, however, has changed. According to Dominguez, polls in Iowa show that voters “would think more highly, not less, of Christie if he signs this bill.”

Mercy For Animals Protest at Walmart

Mercy For Animals Protest at Walmart

Jane Velez-Mitchell reports on the status of the gestation crate bill in NJ:

Several public figures have spoken out in support of a ban. In 2013, lifestyle maven Martha Stewart sent a letter to NJ lawmakers asking them to override Christie’s veto: “These animals have committed no crime, yet they’re treated worse than even the most violent criminals would be treated.” In a recent NY Times op-ed, political commentator Bill Maher makes a public appeal to Christie to pass the new bill: “Would you cram a dog into a crate for her entire life, never letting her out, until you took her to the pound to kill her?”

gestation crates

What agribusiness doesn’t want consumers to see

In a NY Times op-ed in February, writer Nicholas Kristof said, “These are tiny stalls that are barely bigger than the pigs, who don’t even have enough room to turn around. They live out their adult lives without exercise or meaningful social interaction; it’s like a life sentence of solitary confinement in a coffin, punctuated by artificial insemination and birth.”

In August, a bill to ban the crates failed to pass in Massachusetts. In an industry journal, local hog farmer Lisa Colby declared a victory for “the rights of local farmers” and for “farmers’ choices in taking care of their animals.” Agribusiness justifies the use of crates by claiming that they “allow for individualized care and eliminate aggression from other sows.”

Your Turn

Gestation crates are being phased out in several states, and major pork customers like McDonalds are requiring their suppliers to phase them out. However, far more work needs to be done to eliminate these crates in the U.S. and worldwide. To help ensure a victory in New Jersey, please take the following steps:
1. Sign the Change.org petition
2. Tweet  Governor Christie (@GovChristie) in support of the bill and use the hashtag #signS998
3. Call the Governor’s office 609-292-6000

Filed under: Food, Investigations
Tagged with: , , , , , ,