The U.S. Department of Agriculture has rejected a petition from California-based Mercy for Animals, which requested that USDA include poultry in the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

“Chicken companies already have strong moral and financial motivation to ensure chickens are handled properly,” said NCC spokesman Tom Super. “Each chicken represents an investment by the processor, and mishandling chickens is not in a processor’s financial interest.  Any abuse is not tolerated by the industry nor FSIS.  This whole process is routinely audited internally, by customers and by independent third parties and monitored on a continuous basis by FSIS inspectors”

Chicken slaughter is already regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service under the Good Commercial Practices regulations of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.  These regulations  address poultry slaughter, and government inspectors are present for the slaughter process in every poultry processing plant. As with species subject to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, all chickens are stunned and rendered senseless to pain before slaughter.

“The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act was written specifically for cattle and other “red meat” species – very large animals that must be handled in a certain way, Super continued.  “It wasn’t designed to accommodate chicken.  In fact, trying to shoehorn chicken harvesting into the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act could significantly compromise chicken welfare.  It’s a square peg – round hole situation.”

Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary in the Office of Food Safety, said in a letter announcing  USDA’s decision, that poultry is already protected by other regulations that protect birds during the slaughter process. She noted that under the Poultry Products Inspection Act and other regulations, live poultry must be handled in a manner that is “consistent with good commercial practices, which means they should be treated humanely.”

Mercy for Animals said it plans to “pursue all available legal options” to overturn USDA’s decision.