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USDA investigating claims of animal abuse caught on video at farm in Maryland

USDA investigating Maryland farm claims of animal abuse caught on video. (Photo: ABC7)

Undercover video at Amick Farms in Hurlock, Maryland on the Eastern Shore is difficult to watch. Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group, released the video which shows workers punching, shoving and throwing birds on production lines.

The investigator, whose identity we won't reveal, videotaped it all and is only talking to 7 On Your Side.

"I documented employees throwing the birds off the conveyor belt. I saw one bird thrown so hard it ricocheted off the belt,” says the Investigator with Compassion Over Killing.

He says he witnessed multiple equipment failures with electrified baths used to stun chickens before they're killed.

"When the lines stop the birds heads are still underneath this bath so if the lines stop for one minute or 5 minutes the birds eventually drown in this electric bath,” adds the Investigator with Compassion Over Killing.

The video also shows some dead birds turned red. The Compassion Over Killing investigator who worked at the farm says that's blood under bird's skin which is evidence the chickens were scalded alive.

Amick Farms won't answer our questions on camera but it's President Ben Harrison emailed:

USDA granted Amick Farms a waiver to increase production lines from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds.

Opponents believe high speed lines create potential abuse for animals and dangerous situations for workers.

"The employees have to shackle them faster which leads maybe to unintentional abuse because they are just trying to keep up with the speed and shackling them fast,” says the Investigator with Compassion over Killing.

USDA is now investigating Amick Farms after the video from Compassion Over Killing was released.

USDA tells ABC 7:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service takes humane handling seriously. When a slaughterhouse is found to be in violation of the humane methods of slaughter act or good commercial practices, there are several steps that the agency may be able to take that involve enforcement or prosecution, in extreme cases.
Some of these actions include: noncompliance records (NRs), notice of intended enforcement (NOIEs) or suspension.

Background:

The National Chicken Council tells ABC 7:

Animal abuse of any kind is never tolerated. If it does occur, disciplinary and corrective actions are immediately taken.

Four Facts about Line Speeds/Waivers:

  • Almost two dozen chicken plants have been operating safely at 175 birds per minute for 20 years under a program initiated by the Clinton administration.
  • Currently, in order to apply for a waiver for a line speed of 175, plants must meet new and stringent criteria from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Compliance with USDA regulations on Good Commercial Practices are now a requirement for a waiver to be granted.
  • The part of the plant in question regarding line speeds and waivers (the evisceration line) has nothing to do with what is purportedly shown in this video.
  • For perspective, plants in Europe, South America, Canada and other countries operate their evisceration lines at 200 birds per minute, or higher.

Viewers should be reminded that this video was produced by a vegan advocacy group, who sat on the footage since August.

To watch all of the video caught on camera at Amick Farms by Compassion Over Killing, click here.

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