The headlines in our local paper for the past two days have been to shout out the jubilee of getting a new $200 million poultry processing plant in our county. It will employ 1,700 people and will process 1.25 million birds per week. And, we are giving them quite a nice tax abatement deal.
Company officials declared that this new plant will enhance revenues and earnings and will allow them to continue to build value for their shareholders.
Has anyone thought about the chickens or the people who will have to work in the plants? Hint: the chickens certainly won’t be grand and majestic like the chicken pictured above.
The factory-farming of chickens is animal cruelty. They live in cages barely big enough for them and stacked between three and nine tiers high in windowless sheds.
In 1950, chickens required 70 days to reach slaughter weight. Today chickens are slaughtered when they are 35 – 40 days old. Because chickens gain weight so fast now and are so top-heavy, they spend most of their days lying down, often in their own excrement. According to a professor of animal welfare, severe leg pain in chickens is the world’s largest animal welfare problem.
When the chickens reach five pounds, it is time for their trip to the processing plant. To catch the chickens, crews of low-paid employees called chicken catchers invade the sheds and grab the chickens by the feet. They then stuff them into bags or holding drawers. The workers get scratched, pecked and covered with shit and at least 25% of the chickens are injured.
The chickens are then loaded into transport cages and trucked to the processing plant. There they will be dumped from their crates, shackled by the legs with metal ties and hung upside down from a conveyor belt. I won’t describe the killing process as many of you wouldn’t be able to sleep for weeks.
The “lucky” people who get jobs in this industry will undertake major health risks. In a study of thirty thousand poultry workers, it was found that those who slaughter chickens have about nine times the odds of developing both pancreatic cancer and liver cancer. Smokers, on the other hand, who have smoked for fifty years only double their risk of getting the same cancers.
But what if you just eat chicken and don’t work around them? Results of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which followed 477,000 people for a decade, found a 72 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer for every fifty grams of chicken (a quarter of a chicken breast) consumed daily.
To me, adding this plant makes for a very sad announcement for our town.