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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
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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
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Activists Target Individual Researchers instead of Universities

March 16, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

According to a report released by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), activists campaigning against animal experimentation are targeting the individuals involved in the research because prote sting against the universities has proven to be ineffective. In response to the shifting tactics, FASEB is advising researchers to limit the amount of personal information they share online and advising universities to assemble a “crisis management team” comprised to respond to incidents. Eric Bernthal from HSUS responded to the report asking why the reason for attacks isn’t being explored and adds, “If you’re going to give advice to researchers about how to solve this problem, the most constructive way is to use fewer animals in research, not assemble crisis communication teams.”

Vivisection protest in Spain

Vivisection protest in Spain

News & Opinion

In university labs across the country, researchers receive government grants to imprison and cut open live monkeys in order to conduct what are often redundant, unnecessary, painful and deadly behavior studies. It’s a very big business. Locking up animals in cages and experimenting on their bodies are cruel and unjustifiable practices. To see how you can help end animal testing, please visit Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN).


Filed under: Experimentation
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Baby Pigs Fed to their Mothers

February 20, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage taken by an undercover investigator that shows baby pigs being fed to their mothers at a Kentucky pig factory. According to HSUS, “sows confined in cramped cages known as gestation crates were fed ground up intestines from piglets who had recently succumbed to a highly contagious diarrheal disease at the Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky. More than 900 piglets died from the diarrheal disease in a two-day period.” While prohibited by state law, the practice of feeding piglets to their mothers is fairly widespread, according to HSUS.

News & Opinion

Undercover investigators who work in factory farms say they are haunted by the sounds of mother pigs wailing in gestation crates, but it is because of their heroic work that change occurs. As a follow up to their hog farm investigation, HSUS is asking people to join their worldwide effort to ban gestation crates. Nine states have already done so.


Filed under: Food
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