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Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) is under fire again after a new undercover video depicts inhumane abuse at a chicken facility in Texas. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), an animal rights group, went under cover for 21 days to document the cruelty.
“The chickens were brought in on a conveyor belt that were covered in dirt and feces. The conditions in the live hang are filthy and horrendous for both the people and the animals. When the conveyor belt turned on, the lights would be turned off. All you heard was the constant terrified clucks of the babies who were barely 6 weeks of age,” says the Undercover Investigator at ALDF, who worked at the Texas facility’s live hang room. The former Tyson employee chose to keep her identity a secret for her protection.
“The absolute worst thing I had to do while working at Tyson was to rip the heads off of live chickens. You could tell that the chickens were alive and scared as you put their heads into the hook,” she adds.
Carter Dillard, Director of Litigation for ALDF tells FOXBusiness.com that Tyson Foods, who is one of the largest chicken producers in the United States (and operates 45 slaughterhouses), is to blame.
“Tyson Foods has a history of abusing animals. They're not isolated incidents. This is a company-wide problem of exploiting workers and animals in a system designed to maximize profit. What’s different about our investigation is that we are taking legal action,” he said.
The group has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They are also asking the Attorney General of the State of Delaware, where Tyson Foods is incorporated, to investigate and sanction the company.
In an email to FOXBusiness.com, Tyson Foods says they’re still reviewing the video but want consumers to know that they are committed to proper animal handling and workplace safety.
“Everyone who works with live animals in our plants – including the person who secretly shot this video – is trained in proper animal handling and instructed to report anything they believe is inappropriate. They can report to their supervisor, the Tyson Foods compliance and ethics hotline and even one of the USDA inspectors who have access to all parts of the plant, including live animal handling areas. During the timeframe we believe this video was shot, we have no record of any employees reporting claims of animal handling violations,” the company said via email to FOXBusiness.com.
Tyson says in addition to training, they regularly conduct internal animal handling audits and they’re also subjected to third party audits as well.
“The USDA has authority over production rates. We operate our plants – including the one in Carthage, Texas – well within the limits set by the USDA. The safety of our Team Members is very important to us,” the company adds.
In an e-mail to FOXBusiness.com, the USDA gave the following statement.
"We are looking into the allegations of humane handling abuse at the Texas facility. FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) is dedicated to ensuring that all animals presented for slaughter at FSIS-inspected facilities are treated humanely."
Dillard says if someone was caught beating a dog or cat they would likely be punished for animal cruelty.
"Our laws reflect the basic moral intuition that it is wrong to cause an innocent creature needless suffering. But as dozens of investigations of factory farms like Tyson have shown, corporations can cause pain and misery to billions of animals each year and repeatedly suffer no consequence,” he adds.
Last month, FOXBusiness.com reported a similar story, where another Tyson foods farm in Tennessee, who was supplying meat to McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) was caught beating chickens with spikes and stepping on their heads to break their necks.
The video was shot by Mercy for Animals, another animal rights group. Since the release of the video, both companies have cut ties with the farm and the owners of the facility were charged with criminal animal cruelty.
“This system treats living creatures like the meat they will be processed into before they actually die. It’s a factory that produces suffering more than anything,” says Dillard.
The ALDF undercover investigator says working at Tyson Foods made her physically sick.
“I got feces in my eyes and mouth regularly. I had heat rashes, eye discharge, blisters on my hands, carpal tunnel, infected scratches and cuts, severe fatigue, body aches and a head cold from the bad air quality,” she says.
ALDF hopes their video will urge consumers to stop buying products from Tyson Foods.
“Bringing Tyson to justice would be a fine start and that is our intention. For now, the public can vote with their dollars and boycotting industries that use and abuse animals by switching to a plant-based diet,” says Dillard.
Story has been updated with a statement from the USDA.