At poultry slaughterhouses, chickens whiz past workers at the rate of 35 per minute per inspector, getting various parts cut off. At one of the early stations their throats are cut, so it wouldn't seem to make any difference to the chicken how fast the rest of the production line goes, except for this: some of them are still conscious.
Now the USDA is preparing to implement a rule that would increase that speed to 175 per minute per inspector. Inspectors would have less time to examine birds, meaning that "plant employees [would] replace federal government inspectors for certain inspection activities." In other words, slaughterhouses would, to a significant extent, police themselves.
Speeding up the lines in chicken slaughter houses would increase the birds' suffering, because more of them would survive the throat-cutting and be conscious for the next step, which is being dropped in boiling water. It would also decrease the safety of their meat because inspectors would have far less time to examine each bird. In addition, speeding up the line will increase the likelihood of injuries to workers by forcing them to move much faster.
Dear Secretary Vilsack, We urge the USDA not to implement a rule allowing faster processing at poultry slaughterhouses for three reasons. First, increasing the production speeds will make the slaughter process less humane by increasing the chance that birds' carotid arteries are not both severed, leaving them conscious in the scalding tank. Second, decreasing the number of inspectors and the time an inspector has to look at a carcass can only endanger consumers' health. Third, faster processing speeds will increase the number of workers who develop repetitive strain injuries from performing the same motions very quickly for hours at a time. For these reasons, please do not permit slaughterhouses to increase their processing speed.
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