Congress Requests Briefing on Bird Mistreatment at Slaughter

After years of monitoring records generated by US Department of Agriculture inspectors that document horrific mistreatment of birds inside poultry slaughter plants, AWI is lobbying Congress to require increased oversight of bird handling at slaughter. We hope doing so will lead to better compliance with humane bird handling practices and, ultimately, less suffering. 

Absent federal protections for birds under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the only protections for poultry at slaughter are the industry’s voluntary “good commercial practices” (GCP) for bird handling. These practices are primarily intended to prevent adulteration, but also provide guidance on treating birds humanely at slaughter. Based on USDA enforcement records, however, it is clear that both compliance with GCP and the USDA’s oversight of bird handling vary significantly among plants, and birds suffer as a result. 

Thanks to AWI’s efforts, Congress—for the first time—has signaled an interest in the treatment of birds at slaughter and has directed the USDA to brief the House Appropriations Committee on instances where slaughter plants failed to comply with GCP. In response to this directive (included in a committee report incorporated by reference into the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022), AWI provided the committee with a list of 212 documented incidents that demonstrate bird mishandling and noncompliance with GCP. This list was based on USDA enforcement records generated between January 2019 and September 2021 and involved significant welfare concerns, including death due to drowning in the scald tank, severe injury or death due to equipment malfunction, and death due to exposure, overcrowding, or extended holding periods, among other issues. 

This information clearly shows both the repeated failure of establishments to comply with GCP and the inadequacy of the USDA’s current approach to monitoring bird handling, and AWI is calling on Congress to further examine the USDA’s oversight and take steps that will lead to better compliance with GCP.