Video Prompts Groundbreaking Convictions for Cruelty to Chickens

First-Ever Trials for Broilers: Nine Former Tyson Employees Guilty on 22 Charges

August 30, 2017  — Richmond, Va. Nine former employees of Tyson Foods have been convicted of a total of 22 counts of criminal animal cruelty after a Compassion Over Killing (COK) investigator turned over heartbreaking hidden-camera footage to authorities. Working for Tyson, the nation’s largest chicken producer, COK’s investigator documented shocking cruelty to chickens inside several broiler breeder facilities in three different Virginia counties.

COK’s investigative footage provided evidence that drove multiple trials, convictions and plea agreements over the course of several weeks the first-ever trials for animal cruelty to chickens raised for meat.

“Compassion Over Killing applauds the prosecution’s work and the decisions from the court to uphold anti-cruelty laws and protect animals from such horrific cruelty to birds as documented by our undercover investigator working for Tyson,” said Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing. “This is a landmark victory in achieving justice for farm animals.”

In a release issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia, state Attorney General Mark Herring firmly stated, “These convictions send a clear, strong signal across the Commonwealth that my team and I take these crimes seriously, and that those who commit cruelty to animals will be held accountable for their actions.”

Herring added, “Mistreatment of animals is both inhumane and illegal, and I’m glad to see the perpetrators of these crimes brought to justice.”

Among those convicted was the owner of a farm contracted by Tyson Foods, sentenced to 30 days (suspended) and barred for two years from supervising a chicken production crew.

COK’s video documents Tyson workers punching and kicking live birds, birds crushed to death by transport crates and run over by forklifts, and other horrific cruelty, including a barbaric chicken industry practice of using nose “bones” that had never before been documented on hidden camera.

While the use of nose “bones,” which involves stabbing a dull plastic stick through the nostrils of male breeder birds to restrict food intake, was once widely practiced in the chicken industry, COK’s unprecedented footage of this painful practice prompted a cruelty conviction of one now former Tyson employee.

COK’s video further prompted Tyson Foods to immediately end the practice of “boning,”a decision that quickly helped prompt two other top US poultry producers, Perdue Farms and Wayne Farms, to follow suit.

Prosecuting the cases through the Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit were Senior Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch — who also prosecuted in the highly-publicized Michael Vick dogfighting case — and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block.

For full details on the convictions, see the state’s press release here.

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Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization working to end the abuse of farmed animals through undercover investigations, litigation, corporate outreach, public education, and other advocacy programs.