By Alisa Mullins
Yes, we wish everyone would just go vegan and be done with it, but we ain't there yet. It's a process (and you know that it's gathering steam if you heard Bill Clinton describing his own dietary decisions on CNN: "No chicken!"). So while we sling vegan starter kits at people as if there were no tomorrow, we also work hard to reduce the suffering of the billions of
chickens—for whom there truly is no tomorrow—who are born into a world where people still salivate over birds' limbs. That's why we are very pleased to announce that after more than a year of behind-the-scenes work with PETA, two chicken producers, Pennsylvania-based Bell & Evans and California-based Mary's Chickens, have begun the process of implementing a new slaughter system called "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK). These will be the first slaughterhouses in the U.S. to make the switch. This new system is a huge improvement over the cruel systems that are used today.
Here's what happens to chickens in the U.S. now: They are dumped out of their transport crates, violently shackled upside down (a procedure that often results in broken wings and legs), and run through an electrical bath that paralyzes them but leaves them conscious. In addition, millions of them are scalded to death in defeathering tanks. CAK eliminates all these abuses. That's because it removes the oxygen from the chickens' environment and slowly replaces it with a nonpoisonous gas that puts the birds to sleep while they are still in their transport crates. This system also removes any opportunity for workers to engage in the kind of abuse that PETA has uncovered during multiple undercover investigations.
A number of restaurant chains (including KFCs in Canada, Quiznos, Subway, Starbucks, and Ruby Tuesday) and grocery chains (including Safeway, Harris Teeter, and Winn-Dixie) are already purchasing turkeys killed by CAK. Now, for the first time, thanks to Bell & Evans and Mary's Chickens, restaurants and grocery stores will also be able to purchase chickens killed by CAK.
We believe that it's just a matter of time before others producers follow suit. In Europe, CAK is already widely used and is gaining in popularity, and we think that these decisions by Bell & Evans and Mary's Chickens mark the beginning of an industrywide change that will prevent billions of chickens in the U.S. from enduring terrible pain and suffering. If you were a chicken dreaming of a vegan world and headed for the knife, which system would you vote for?