United Poultry Concerns March 3, 2003
Below is the Letter Sent By United Poultry Concerns President Dr. Karen Davis to San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis Urging Prosecution of the Ward Egg Ranch for Throwing Thousands of Live Hens Into Wood-Chipping Machines

Bonnie M. Dumanis
San Diego County District Attorney
330 West Broadway, Suite 1300
San Diego, CA 92101

Dear Ms. Dumanis:

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization with over 15,000 members that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. We are informed that San Diego County is investigating an episode at two Ward Egg Ranch farms in which employees reportedly threw approximately 30,000 hens into wood-chipping machinery, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (2/22). We urge you to prosecute Ward Egg Ranch for this act of extreme cruelty to animals.

I respectfully draw your attention to the fact that dumping chickens into wood-chipping machinery cannot be defended as “standard agricultural practice,” nor is this method of killing included as an acceptable method of animal disposal in the 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia. The AVMA Report states that the term euthanasia means a “good death,” one that occurs “with minimal pain and distress” (p. 672). The Report states that “When animals must be euthanized, either as individuals or in larger groups, moral and ethical concerns dictate that humane practices be observed” (p. 674).

Humane practices were not observed in the Ward Egg Ranch episode, and the hens did not experience a “good” or “painless” death. Rather, they endured a monstrous death of slow torture because workers reportedly were tired of breaking their necks. Whatever the reason it is no excuse. No one would dare to suggest that throwing a dog, cat, parrot, or human being into a wood-chipping machine was “humane” or “painless.”

This is not to suggest that other methods normally used by the poultry industry to dispose of unwanted birds are humane (i.e. gassing. suffocation, and cervical dislocation). Rather, it is to observe that throwing live three- to- four- pound hens into wood-chipping machinery does not even have the justification of “standard agricultural practice” or the approval of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

We therefore urge you, please, to take this crime seriously and to prosecute Ward Egg Ranch. Society is growing increasingly aware and intolerant of the “anything goes” approach to the treatment of birds and other animals in production agriculture. The fact that these animals are in agricultural production systems does not justify our moral and legal abandonment of them. On the contrary, it increases our obligation to protect them.

I speak not only for myself and my organization but for a large and growing public in urging you to prosecute this case. As San Diego County Animal Services Lt. Mary Kay Gagliardo told the North County Times (2/28): “It’s clearly animal cruelty.”

I will be happy to send you scientific documentation regarding the capacity of chickens to experience, pain, suffering, fear, and distress the same as mammals. There is an ample body of evidence regarding the neurophysiological sensitivities and cognitive complexity of chickens.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter, Ms. Dumanis. I can be reached at 757-678-7875 if you have questions or need additional information. I look forward to hearing from you and to helping you however I can be of service to you in your prosecution of this case of indefensible cruelty to thousands of helpless birds.


Karen Davis, PhD

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Battery Hens: Egg industry stalked by pressure to give its birds more room )

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