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Why Are We Still Eating Chicken?

Story ID:10402
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:- - Canada
Year:2015
Person:"John" of MFA
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I guess many of us are disillusioned with humanity. We may all have different reasons.
Mine is realizing how very difficult it is to awaken feelings of compassion for our
terribly exploited farm animals. Surely by now -all of us have read something re the
cruelties which our meat- based diets have caused them. And in reality, this diet not
only causes animal suffering, but because of it -precious grain used to raise them
could be better used to feed the impoverished starving world.

But somehow we seem either to be dismissive of these facts or really just don’t care.
However, I think it is important to share what we learn each day in this regard with
others. If you receive Mercy for Animals, you will already have read their recent
expose of what happens to chickens in Canada. Well, you may think it only happens
there, but it happens here in the US too and probably other countries as well.

I sometimes have difficulty reading about cruelty to both humans and animals, but
can you imagine what it must be like to view it up close and personal? “John,” an
undercover agent for MFA had this great courage and shared his experience with us.
For six months he was an employee of the slaughterhouse owned and operated by
Maple Lodge Farms of Canada.

Of this place John said, “It is one of the ugliest places you can imagine.” The chickens
from mostly Ontario farms are brought in by a steady stream of tractor trailers The
birds quickly bred are about two months old. Every day- nearly a half a million of them
are slaughtered at this Maple Lodge plant. It feeds a Canadian market that consumes
more than 650 million chickens every year. Clearly, it is a very popular meat source
in Canada.

Not surprisingly, the Maple Lodge Farms website claims that it treats its birds humanely,
but any one watching the undercover video shot by John would certainly disprove this
assertion. Even weather takes its toll on these poor birds. In hot months some of them
arrive dead from over-heating. And in the cold months- some arrive frozen like blocks of
ice. Perhaps -despite this cruel death, they maybe the luckier ones.

The crated chickens who survive the terrible weather heat or freezing cold are unloaded
and sometimes roughly thrown onto a conveyor belt. John described the procedure: “Each
employee is expected to hang 20 birds a minute, so employees are hanging birds as fast
as they can to keep up. So they are being grabbed pretty violently. Sometimes you’ll see
bones protruding out of the skin, you see toes ripped off. It’s pretty horrific.”

Then the line carrying the suspended birds moves through a process where the heads are
pulled through an electrified pool which stuns the animal. Next, a machine cuts their throats,
and finally they are dunked into a scalding tank which makes it easier for yet another
machine to pluck off the feathers.

The company actually believes these procedures are efficient and humane. I would
like them to imagine themselves from the chicken’s perspective. Obviously, they don’t.

Unfortunately, John said he often saw birds come out of the stunning pool conscious,
and in their struggle to release themselves -sometime miss the blade designed to cut
their throats. Workers were positioned for this eventuality, and would manually dispatch
as many as a thousand or more of them each day.

Per John- the technology being used here is STANDARD IN THE INDUSTRY. But the
burning question has to be –is the company doing anything wrong?

The question was put to one of Canada’s poultry experts who believes that some of
the things he saw in the undercover video should not have happened. To his credit,
he did find fault with many of the cruel procedures at this slaughtering plant.

Maple Lodge Farms had been convicted previously in September of 2013 because of
”the failure to prevent undue suffering by undue exposure to weather of a large number
of chickens and were fined $100,000 and placed on probation for 3 years.” Well, this is
all well and good, but didn’t they obviously miss citing the evident monumental failures
re the inhumane slaughtering practices themselves?

CEO Michael Burrows of Maple Lodge Farms was not willing to view the undercover video,
nor did he make an attempt to meet with MFA regarding it. Of course, he made a statement
saying that the humane treatment of the birds was a priority and a moral responsibility that
they take seriously. If so, then he should have viewed the video. Words are cheap.

Though Burrows refused to meet with MFA -MFA received a message that “The CFIA is
conducting a thorough and careful review of the complaint and will take any necessary
measures that it may deem appropriate.” I hope they are sincere and that this is just not
mere rhetoric and that true reform will come as a result of this horrific video.

Canada MFA is also pushing for major changes to the aging technology prevalent in the
poultry slaughter industry. They hope that instead of electrified pools to stun the birds
and automated cutters to slice their throats that CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE KILLING
(CAK) be used. A video from Norway shows crates of birds arriving at a CAK facility. They
are then placed inside a chamber where inert gases replace oxygen- causing all the birds
to slip into unconsciousness and death -when they are then handled by humans.

Wonderful – thank you Norway. Yes, these procedures would be costly to implement –
but surely a compassionate people will not object. I hope to write to Pres. Obama
and USDA Inspector Tom Vilsak about this. We all should, if we really care.