Police in the U.S. are investigating a major poultry producer after an animal-rights group shot undercover video showing some chickens being slammed upside-down into metal shackles, punched and having their feathers pulled out while they were still alive.
The video, obtained by The Associated Press in advance of its release Wednesday, was shot by the Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals, which advocates against eating meat. The group said the footage was shot between April and June at a slaughterhouse and farms in California owned by Foster Farms, a top poultry manufacturer on the west coast of the United States.
Spokesman Tony Botti said police are investigating the allegations after receiving a complaint from Mercy for Animals.
Foster Farms spokesman Michael Fineman said in a statement that the company has launched its own investigation and will fully cooperate with authorities.
"The behavior of the individuals in this video is inappropriate and counter to our stringent animal welfare standards, procedures and policies," Fineman said. "We believe raising chickens humanely is simply the right thing to do, and we take our commitment to humane values very seriously."
Among the footage, workers are shown throwing bins of live chicks onto the ground, after which some are shown apparently unable to move. Other footage shows what Mercy for Animals said are the bodies of chickens boiled alive after missing an automatic knife that's supposed to slit their necks at the slaughterhouse.
Matt Rice, director of investigations for Mercy for Animals, said his group believes the footage is emblematic of operations at Foster Farms and that the company's management took no corrective actions after abuse was reported by an undercover employee.
Government statistics show that hundreds of thousands of chickens are accidentally dropped alive into scalding tanks every year, but that represents a small fraction of those slaughtered. Last year, the rate at which chickens were improperly slaughtered plummeted to a low of 0.008 percent, agriculture officials say.