'Horror movie' turkey slaughter video prompts calls for change
Published Monday, October 24, 2016 3:34PM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, October 25, 2016 11:39AM PDT
A prominent animal protection group is calling for change after the release of undercover video capturing turkeys being "tortured to death" at one of Canada's largest poultry companies.
The footage, which was taken at a Lilydale slaughterhouse in Abbotsford, B.C., shows turkeys being yanked out of crates before being "painfully" shackled upside-down on a conveyor belt. Then the turkeys are dragged through an electrified bath before their throats are slit wide open.
Matt Rice, executive vice-president for Mercy For Animals, said the baths don't necessarily render the birds unconscious, and thousands of frightened animals are still fully conscious when they are dragged through vats of feather removal tanks filled with boiling water.
"You can see them struggle in pain, flinching in pain. Many of the birds were still fully conscious, blinking and vocalizing when their throats are slit open," he told reporters at a Vancouver press conference.
"Many of the birds were too sick or injured to even walk, suffering from broken bones or wings."
The videos were shot over a three-week period this fall by a Mercy for Animals whistleblower working undercover in a bid to expose animal cruelty.
In one video, a worker can be heard telling the undercover operative that some birds get "boiled to death."
"[It's] scalding their heads to death. Their eyes pop out of their head. It looks like a f**kin' horror movie," the worker tells the undercover MFA operative.
The video was shown across Canada as part of a W5 investigation this weekend.
The kill methods in the video are not illegal – In fact, they are industry standard. But animal welfare experts say B.C. – and Canada as a whole – can do better when it comes to the humane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.
Mercy For Animals is calling for Lilydale's parent company, Sofina Foods, to end the "blatant animal abuse" in the live-shackle slaughter system and replace it with controlled-atmosphere stunning, a more humane system where birds are gassed before ever being handled.
The system is already being used in much of Europe, and more major North American producers, including Maple Leaf Foods and Cargill, have committed to moving to the less-cruel structure.
Rice says Sofina Foods has the power – and responsibility – to "ending the suffering of millions of animals in its supply chain."
"Turkeys are every bit as capable as experiencing pain and suffering as our beloved dogs and cats at home and they deserve the same protection from needless cruelty and violence," he said.
In a statement, Sofina Foods said its Abbotsford plant completely complies with current industry practices and government regulations, although it admitted that the images "may be challenging to witness" for those who don't work in the industry.
Sofina Foods said it will introduce its first controlled stunning system in the new year.
"We collaborate with industry, regulatory and other experts continuously to enhance our practices," a statement issued Sunday said. The company has not said what percentage of its operations will be moved to controlled atmosphere stunning.
Mercy For Animals said it wants to see Sofina Foods move 100 per cent of its operations to the more humane method and "do it quickly."
The agency has launched an online petition asking Sofina Foods to end live-shackle slaughter methods, as well as provide its birds with access to natural light and engage in natural behaviours.