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Nonprofit sheds light on inhumane conditions at a western Ky. factory farm

Many chickens in a commercial poultry facility.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
A proposed law in Kentucky would prohibit drones, video or audio recording devices or photography equipment on or above a factory farm or food processing facility.

The animal welfare nonprofit Mercy for Animals published a video last week that it claims sheds light on inhumane and poor working conditions “at facilities raising animals for Pilgrim’s Pride” in western Kentucky.

The video, posted on April 1, shows chickens being handled violently as they’re grabbed by the neck and thrown into small cages and claims that the employees being depicted are incentivized for these actions.

According to an investigation report released by the California-based nonprofit, most farms in Kentucky that provide poultry to Pilgrim’s Pride have between three and eight broiler houses that can each hold a maximum of over 35,000 birds. Mercy for Animals also said, in a press release, that farms like this can cultivate “frankenchickens” – fowl that grow to large sizes unnaturally fast due to generations of aggressive breeding practices – that “endure lives of misery,” often becoming immobile and sick from fast growth.

Alex Cerussi, senior state policy manager with Mercy for Animals, said chickens should be treated as humanely as possible, especially in the food industry.

“There are many, many people across Kentucky and in the country who do care and do want to know that, if they are going to be purchasing these products, that the animals that were raised on the farm were treated better than they are being treated,” Cerussi said.

Paula Tejeda-Moncrief, who serves as the director of investigations at Mercy for Animals, alleged that employees in broiler houses, like the ones shown in the video, are paid by how many chickens they catch, not by the hour.

“They incentivize cruelty. They grab them fast by their wings, by their necks. These are terrified birds, so it’s even harder to catch them,” Tejeda-Moncrief said.

Cerussi said the video exposes issues beyond animal welfare, including food safety and sanitary concerns.

JBS, the international meatpacking company that owns Pilgrim’s Pride, has not publicly responded to Mercy for Animals’ allegations.

Legislation that would criminalize whistleblowing activities – similar to what Mercy for Animals has attempted with its investigation – passed the Kentucky legislature in March but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday. SB 16 would prohibit drones, video or audio recording devices or photography equipment on or above a factory farm or food processing facility.

Cerussi and Moncrief said that the bill seeks to keep the public in the dark and threatens First Amendment rights for whistleblowers.

“The public deserves to know what happens in factory farms and food-processing facilities,” says Cerussi in a press release.

In his veto message, Beshear said the bill would diminish transparency when it comes to commercial food manufacturing, processing facilities and animal feeding operations in Kentucky.

Kentucky lawmakers will reconvene in Frankfort for two days, Friday and Monday, to complete the legislative session. During those days, the Republican-controlled legislature will have the opportunity to override Beshear’s vetoes. Other legislation could also be passed, but any bills that made it through the chambers would be subject to the governor’s veto – and lawmakers won’t have the chance to override them.

Copyright 2024 WKMS. To see more, visit WKMS.

Zoe Lewis

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