Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Video shows KFC chickens being treated like footballs

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

An animal rights group involved in a long legal dispute with Kentucky Fried Chicken about the treatment of the 700 million chickens it buys each year was to release a videotape yesterday showing slaughterhouse workers for one of its suppliers jumping up and down on live chickens, drop-kicking them like footballs and slamming them into walls, apparently for fun.

When officials from the KFC Corp saw the videotape on Monday, they said they would seek dismissal of the workers, inspect the slaughterhouse more often and end their relationship if the cruelty was repeated.

Animal-rights groups have long complained that sheer malicious behavior -- on top of the expected confinement and bloodletting -- goes on in slaughter plants, but this is the first time such graphic proof has been produced. The tape was taken surreptitiously by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who worked from last October until May this year at a Pilgrim's Pride plant in Moorefield,

KFC "will require that the employee or employees responsible be terminated," said Bonnie Warschauer, director of public relations, and further violations will "result in termination of our relationship."

Prominent veterinarians, including those on the company's animal-welfare advisory board, called for shutting down the plant and dismissing or prosecuting its managers. Ian Duncan, an animal and poultry science professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, who is a KFC adviser, said the tape "contains some of the worst scenes of animal cruelty that I have ever witnessed."

A Pilgrim's Pride spokesman said the company had an anonymous report about poultry mistreatment at the plant in April and had made it clear to its workers that "any such behavior would result in immediate termination." In light of the tape, the company said, it will reopen its investigation.

The undercover investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation and still does undercover work for the group, said he saw "hundreds" of acts of cruelty, including workers tearing beaks off, ripping a bird's head off to write graffiti in blood, spitting tobacco juice into birds' mouths, plucking feathers to "make it snow," suffocating a chicken by tying a latex glove over its head and squeezing them like balloons in order to spary feces at other birds.

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