End the Inhumane Slaughter of Birds in the United States

Target: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Goal: Require poultry processing plants in the United States to implement more ethical methods of slaughtering birds killed for human consumption.

Electrical water bath stunning is the primary method of slaughter of birds killed for human consumption in the United States.  Through growing research, this method is increasingly regarded as inhumane. A more effective and humane method, Controlled Atmosphere Killing, is considered the best alternative.

Electrical water bath stunning involves the use of electrical water baths supplied with constant voltage to stun several live birds at once.  Prior to the bath, the animals are crated and brought to processing plants where they are subsequently  shackled and suspended upside down so that they pass, head first, through the electrically charged bath.  After the bath the birds are killed by an automated knife, which slits their throat so that they may bleed out.  Finally, the birds are placed in a scald tank where they are prepared for mechanical plucking.  This method is as horrifying and inhumane as it sounds.  Given that more humane methods are available, it is also unacceptable on ethical grounds.

According to a report produced by the Humane Society of the United States, “There are many welfare problems associated with the process of uncrating and shackling live birds, and the operation of existing multiple-bird electrical water-bath stunning technology…Both the uncrating and shackling process can be extremely distressing and painful for these birds…Handling, inversion, and shackling are traumatic and stressful, as reported in multiple studies that measured physiological indicators of stress. Because of this, approximately 90% of birds flap their wings vigorously, which may lead to dislocated joints and broken bones…Historically, the development of electrical stunning devices was driven more by the need to facilitate processing and automation of slaughter than by concern for bird welfare (Drs. Shields and Raj: An HSUS Report, The Welfare of Birds at Slaughter).”

Sadly, the stress induced before even reaching the stun bath is only the beginning of needless suffering endured by many birds before their painful deaths.  As research shows, the entire process is problematic and rife with the potential for error.  The stun bath is designed to be instantaneous and effective; however, the standard electrical water baths used in the United States do not meet the requirements set forth by the World Organization for Animal Health, nor do they effectively render all birds immediately unconscious.  This means that birds who are conscious and completely sentient to pain are slaughtered inhumanely.

The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act was designed to decrease the suffering of animals slaughtered for food in the United States and to afford livestock the quickest and least painful death possible.  Unfortunately, birds consumed for food in the United States are not protected by this law, and, as described, the most prevalent method of slaughter cannot be considered humane.

Alternative methods already utilized by some poultry processing plants globally include “Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK).” Regarded as the method that promotes the highest welfare for birds, CAK exposes birds to a lethal mixture of gases that actually kills them before being handled for processing; consequently, birds are afforded a death with the least amount of pain, stress, and suffering possible.

By signing the petition below you are telling the Secretary of Agriculture that you find the most widely used method of slaughtering birds to be unethical and unacceptable.  Furthermore, you are demanding that processing plants utilizing electrical stun baths be required to phase in CAK, which promotes better animal welfare.


Dear Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack,

The electrical stunning of birds through electrical water baths is an outdated and unethical method of slaughtering birds that is widely used in poultry processing plants throughout the United States.  As increasing analysis of electrical stunning regards this method as inhumane and frequently ineffective other methods, which are developed with animal welfare a principal priority, have been developed.

According to a report produced by the Humane Society of the United States, “To date, the most effective and least aversive method of stunning birds prior to slaughter is Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK), which rapidly and efficiently gasses birds while they are in transport crates…Alternative methods, such as Controlled Atmosphere Killing, are proven through research to be more effective in providing a quick death that is as pain-free and least distressing as possible, thus promoting greater welfare of animals.”

Not only does this afford these birds the most humane slaughter possible, research shows it also provides better working conditions for factory workers and reduces food safety risks.  Currently, birds are not protected by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. We ask you to consider their welfare by requiring poultry processing plants to phase out the use of electrical water baths and replace them with Controlled Atmosphere Killing.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Sioda , via morguefile

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One Comment

  1. Unbelievable horror for these innocent, gentle animals who serve us.

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116 Signatures

  • Ana Maria Mainhardt Carpes
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