An undercover investigation by the animal protection organization Animal Outlook into a facility that raised chickens for Tyson Foods has led to calls for prosecuting the meat company giant
Los Angeles, July 11th, 2023 — A new investigation of a Virginia chicken breeding facility, that produced birds for the meat company giant Tyson Foods, is making headlines. It exposes, once again, the cruelty of chicken farming. The investigator, who worked there undercover for more than two months while obtaining the horrific footage, was simultaneously working for Animal Outlook. This animal protection organization claims that there is enough evidence to prosecute Tyson, America’s largest chicken company. The video shows birds with hideous lesions and severe deformities. The investigator also allegedly uncovered water deprivation which they charge led to birds dying of dehydration, food deprivation when feed was not delivered on schedule and birds being violently mistreated.
Animal Outlook’s Executive Director Cheryl Leahy had a conversation with UnchainedTV’s Jane Velez-Mitchell about why her organization is seeking criminal charges and why she believes this abuse is not exceptional but systemic in America’s factory farming system. You can watch the entire conversation — which includes the anonymous participation of the investigator who secured the footage — here:
What Animal Outlook Is Doing with the Evidence
From 2006 to 2019, attorney Cheryl Leahy served as Animal Outlook’s General Counsel, and from 2019 to 2020 she served as its Executive Vice President. She is now Executive Director of Animal Outlook, focusing on the use of undercover investigations to target large-scale abuse of farmed animals through proactive litigation. Animal Outlook had investigated facilities affiliated with Tyson before, but Leahy said this investigation is different:
“What’s different about this investigation, versus basically any other investigation that we’ve done, is this one shows the clearest connection to Tyson itself in the chicken industry…Those facilities are contract growers and Tyson considered them integrator companies. In our case, we’re asking for criminal prosecutions of both the facility, the manager, and also some others, as well as Tyson as a corporation.”
Since the exposé of this facility, Tyson Foods has made statements which seem to distance itself from the facility. But, Animal Outlook claims Tyson employees were secretly recorded during the investigation. Here’s what she says the investigator obtained:
“He was able to put together a robust investigation which was a lot of evidence of material that we believe to be animal cruelty. And that includes the fact that there was a Tyson employee on site, who they call ‘the Broiler Tech Advisor.’ Part of her job was to oversee the facility, including animal welfare, and she was in that role for approximately seven years, so she knew what was going on, and just kept delivering birds.”
“I think what’s haunting is the birds that I couldn’t help. Because there are so many more of those. And those memories tend to stick a little bit harder.”—Animal Outlook Investigator
What Tyson Has Said About the Allegations
The media site Vox wrote about this story, and it reported that, in March, Tyson Foods announced it was shutting down operations in the Virginia area where the investigation took place. It also published the following statement from Kelsie Gibbs, Tyson Food’s spokesman:
“We were disturbed by what we saw in the video…Since January 2023, no Tyson food birds have been placed on this farm and the farmer no longer has a contract to grow for Tyson Foods.”
“From the information that we have though, it seems pretty clear that there are some real systemic problems and Tyson is a major piece of this puzzle. That includes the fact that it was Tyson’s job to deliver the feed, and there were instances where the animals didn’t get feed for over two days… They had a broiler technician adviser at the facility, and she had been working there for years and years. They also had things like biosecurity protocol that they weren’t adhering to, and they also had a catch crew come in. Some of the abuse is not related to the individual facility, but it’s a separate catch crew that’s acting kind of on behalf of Tyson.”
We invite Tyson, this chicken facility, or anybody from the chicken industry, to respond further at any time.
“What we know from dozens of investigations over the years, including this one, is that animal cruelty is what the industry relies upon to exist.”— Cheryl Leahy, Animal Outlook’s Exec Director
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Jordi Casmitjana is a vegan zoologist and author.