Buried Alive: COK Investigation Uncovers Shocking Cruelty to Chickens at Pilgrim’s Corp. (formerly known as Pilgrim’s Pride)
|Breaking News – June 25: Watch CNN’s in-depth story featuring COK’s undercover video that includes interviews with Erica Meier and our brave investigator!|
|In the News – July 10: Watch CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell coverage of our investigation, “Chicken Abuse Uncovered at a North Carolina Factory Farm”|
|August 16: Raleigh News & Observer publishes op-ed by COK’s Erica Meier: “NC Authorities Ignoring Video of Chickens Buried Alive”|
AUGUST 6 UPDATE: Harnett County authorities decide “not to bring criminal charges in this case.”
JULY UPDATE: Pilgrim’s issued a statement noting that the “video shows startling images of birds being mistreated” and calling those acts “unacceptable.”
Each year in the US, more than 8 billion chickens are raised and killed for their meat, and countless more suffer and die before even reaching the slaughterhouse. Few people have seen the daily miseries these baby birds are forced to endure — until now.
In early 2014, a Compassion Over Killing investigator wore a hidden camera while working behind the closed doors of a North Carolina chicken factory that supplies Pilgrim’s Corp. (formerly known as Pilgrim’s Pride) — the second-largest chicken producer in the world. Typically kept hidden from public view, our video footage uncovers the following day-to-day horrors:
- birds suffering from painful leg deformities, unable to walk
- sick or injured birds thrown around
- unwanted birds stuffed into buckets with dead or decaying corpses
- live birds dumped like trash into outdoor pits, left to die from starvation, dehydration, or possibly even suffocation
Much of the suffering these birds endure results from standard industry practices. However, Compassion Over Killing believes that several acts of abuse we’ve documented, including dumping birds alive, not only fall outside of accepted industry practices, they also violate state animal protections laws. Our evidence has been turned over to local authorities for further investigation. (Read more details.)
Pilgrim’s Shame: Behind Closed Doors
On the same day they hatch, these chickens, referred to as “broilers” by the industry, arrive at the grow-out facility where they’ll spend the next few weeks of their short lives. At Prince Poultry, the facility where our investigator worked, there are 12 massive warehouse-like sheds where birds are raised and crowded inside. Each shed contains more than 20,000 birds living in dark, filthy conditions. In total, this one facility will raise approximately one million birds in a single year.
As is standard industry practice, these birds are genetically manipulated to rapidly grow from tiny hatchlings into obese, adult-sized chickens in a matter of a few weeks. This abnormally fast growth commonly causes birds to collapse under their own weight. They suffer from painful and debilitating leg deformities that make it nearly impossible for them to access food or water. Other birds may suffer from sudden heart attacks, which the industry casually calls “flip-over disease.” (Read more about the suffering caused by fast-growth.)
Unable to escape their own nauseating waste, virtually all of these birds endure severe ammonia burns on their chests.
To make matters worse, some birds at this facility also experienced outright abuse at the hands of workers. Unwanted birds — those that are deemed sick, injured, too small, or otherwise unprofitable — are routinely “culled,” and our investigator documented workers throwing some of these live birds across the sheds. They also used metal hooks to pick up the birds by their necks and stuff them into the same buckets as the dead and decaying corpses of other birds.
Treated as trash, these birds are then dumped alive into outdoor pits and left to die from starvation, dehydration, or possibly even suffocation. When our investigator asked if these birds who were very much alive would be killed before being dumped, a worker acknowledged they’re supposed to kill them first but they don’t.
Please watch and share this video exposing the miseries behind the chicken industry.
Please also visit our photo gallery which includes images from a second North Carolina facility that also supplies Pilgrim’s — these images reveal the suffering endured by hatchlings who are just starting out their short lives inside a factory farm.