Tyson Foods Worker Punches Live Chicken; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 16, 2024

Brittney Williams 202-483-7382

Dexter, Mo. – Following a just-released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report revealing that a worker at the former Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Dexter punched a live chicken, PETA sent a letter to Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Sawyer Smith calling on him to investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against the individual responsible.

According to the report, on August 23 a USDA inspector saw a worker “punch a bird” who was hanging upside down on the slaughter line. PETA’s letter points out that the slaughterhouse also had a history of drowning birds: On July 7, 2022, dozens of chickens were plunged into scalding-hot water and drowned, and on December 28, 2021, at least six birds were scalded alive—with four of them confirmed as being conscious at the time. These are just the incidents that inspectors witnessed.

Chickens shackled and bleeding at a slaughterhouse. Credit: PETA

“This slaughterhouse was hell on Earth for animals, where a chicken was violently assaulted just minutes before being killed and others were scalded and drowned in agony,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA urges anyone who still eats chickens to spare a thought for the suffering of these vulnerable birds and go vegan.”

PETA is pursuing charges under state law because federal officials haven’t prosecuted any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of abuse since at least 2007.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Smith follows.

January 16, 2024

The Honorable Sawyer Smith

Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney

Dear Mr. Smith:

I’m writing to request that your office (and a law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against the individual responsible for punching a chicken at the former Tyson Foods Inc. slaughterhouse located at 1001 E. Stoddard St. in Dexter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which the agency just made available to the public.

According to the report, on August 23, 2023, at approximately 5:36 p.m., an FSIS inspector “observed a [worker] punch a bird going around the carousal [sic]. At the current time no birds were being hung onto the shackles due to evisceration being shut down.” The inspector notified a Tyson supervisor. For more details on this incident, please contact FSIS Office of Field Operations District Manager Jeffery Barham.

This conduct doesn’t represent the otherwise exempt “normal or accepted practices of animal husbandry.” It may, therefore, violate MO Rev Stat § 578.012(2), which prohibits “[p]urposely or intentionally caus[ing] injury or suffering to an animal.” Please note that the FSIS’ report carries no criminal or civil penalties and doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for acts of cruelty to animals. Given that the FSIS hasn’t initiated a criminal prosecution for inhumane handling at a licensed slaughterhouse since at least 2007, charges under state law are this victim’s only chance at a measure of justice.

In addition, beyond the statute of limitations for this offense, you may want to note that at least 42 chickens were plunged into scalding-hot water and drowned at this facility on July 7, 2022. Similarly, on December 28, 2021, at least six birds were scalded—and at least four of them were conscious. These incidents are also described in the attached document.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

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