The Friendly Face of Death and Animal Exploitation

If you question whether animal welfare reform is in the interests of industry, look no further than the October 21, 2010 article in the New York Times about controlled-atmosphere stunning of poultry, which, as I discussed in an essay here in 2008, is promoted by PETA and PETA award-winning slaughterhouse designer, Temple Grandin.

From the New York Times article:

“When you grab a chicken, turn it upside down and put it on the line, it’s stress, stress, stress,” said Scott Sechler, the owner of Bell & Evans. “Our system is designed so that we put them to sleep without stress and we kill them without stress.”

Anglia Autoflow, the company that is building the knock-out systems for the two processors, calls the process “controlled atmosphere stunning,” but Mr. Pitman [owner of Mary's Chickens] said his company was considering the phrase “sedation stunning” for use on its packages. Also on the short-list: “humanely slaughtered,” “humanely processed” or “humanely handled.”

The trick, he said, is to communicate the goal of the new system, which is to ensure that the birds “not have any extra pain or discomfort in the last few minutes of their lives.”

Mr. Sechler said the system was designed to put birds to sleep gently, in the same way that a person undergoes anesthesia before surgery.

To evoke that image, he wants to put the words “slow induction anesthesia” on his packages and advertising, which already tell customers that the birds are raised in roomy conditions with natural light and given feed free of antibiotics or animal byproducts. Customers who want to know more will be able to go to the company’s Web site.

Mr. Sechler said the system he chose, after years of research, was better than similar gas-stunning systems used in Europe. Those systems, he says, often deprive birds of oxygen too quickly, which may cause them to suffer. They are also designed to kill the birds rather than simply knock them out, something that Mr. Sechler is not comfortable with.

“I don’t want the public to say we gas our chickens,” he said.

And, of course, better treatment means better meat:

Mr. Sechler and others promoting the new system said that they expected the meat to be of higher quality because the birds faced less stress and also there would be less bruising and broken wings when they died.

PETA, which promotes the gassing of cickens, also maintains that it’s in the economic interests of producers. In its Analysis of Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric Immobilization from an Economic Standpoint, PETA argues for the gassing of poultry, claiming that the electric stunning method of slaughter “lowers product quality and yield” because birds suffer broken bones and the process results in contamination dangerous to human health. The electric stunning method also “increases labor costs” in various ways. PETA argues that gassing “increases product quality and yield” because broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging are supposedly eliminated, contamination is reduced, “shelf-life of meat” is increased, and “‘more tender breast meat’” is produced. PETA also claims that gassing “lowers labor costs” by reducing the need for certain inspections, reducing accidents, and lowering employee turnover. Gassing provides “other economic benefits” to the poultry industry by allowing producers to save money on energy costs, and by reducing by-product waste and the need to use water.

This sort of campaign is doing nothing but making the public feel better about animal exploitation. Indeed, the large animal welfare groups have become active partners in animal exploitation by helping industry to put a little smiling happy face on death, torture, and exploitation. If you are questioning whether “happy” meat is, and is intended to, make the public feel better about animal exploitation, you are not paying attention.

If you are not a vegan, go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Related posts:

  1. The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell
  2. PETA and KFC: “no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated”
  3. The “Luxury” of Death
  4. Partners in Exploitation
  5. “Unnecessary” Suffering and Death


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