United Poultry Concerns September 11, 2004

Clarification on Stunner Usage

This document on the use of the stunner in chicken slaughter plants is from the website of Virgil Butler and is reprinted with his kind permission. To visit Virgil's site, click on: www.cyberactivist.blogspot.com .

I recently received an email from a reader that brought up some points that she thought should be further discussed about the use of a "stunner" in the slaughterhouse. If you have been reading this blog for awhile and gone through the archives, then you are already aware of the use of the "stunner" to paralyze the chickens before they have their throats slit, either by the killing machine or the human "killer." However, after she did a search of this site on the word "stunner" using the search box I provide on here to make your quest for information easier, she found that I had not addressed some specific points that she thought deserved further discussion. I agree. Sorry about that. Let me attempt to rectify that oversight.

As she rightfully pointed out, many times (even in mainstream media) the stunner is described as a device that is used to "stun" the chickens and make them insensible to pain before killing, thus making the process more humane. Nothing could be further from the truth, however...

Now, I thought that I had discussed this and made it clear, but I guess I had not. I have discussed this in personal emails to individuals however, and sometimes it is hard for me to remember what I have discussed here, what has been discussed in the group, and what has been discussed in private emails. Also, many times I have just thought that people knew things that they obviously didn't. Especially in the beginning, when I started this blog, I assumed there was a lot more general public knowledge of the slaughter process than there actually is. I never realized then that the vast majority of people do not know the specifics of what goes on before the food hits their plates. I have tried to correct that gap in knowledge for those wishing to learn and become more educated on the facts. Sometimes though, obviously I don't make the necessary points, and I always appreciate it when someone writes to me to point that out.

So, in an attempt to fix this oversight on my part, I will go back over this and try to explain it to the best of my ability so that there is better understanding of the use of this technology.

The first question she asked was about my post on the stunner being turned down. She wanted to know if that was a move to save electricity or to facilitate bleed-out, as she pointed out that high voltage hinders bleed-out. My answer to her was this:

You might save a little electricity, but it would probably be pretty negligible. It might affect the budget of that department, but primarily they turn it down to facilitate bleed-out. I have also known of it being done to make it rough on a certain employee that might be in there at a certain time. This might be done if that employee was part of an effort to try to unionize or organize in any way with other employees. I (and several other people) was trying to help do just that at one time, but it never got off the ground. This was one of the reasons. The person will either quit in frustration or do such a bad job that they would have an excuse to fire them. Now, of course, I can't say that this happens in every plant, but this is what went on down at Grannis.

The next thing she brought up was that:

If people know anything about the chicken slaughter business, they
are probably under the false impression that stunning is humane.
(Every article in the mainstream media written on the subject - and
I've probably seen it - says that the chickens are first stunned "for
humane reasons." [Poppycock]

Isn't it true that even when the stunner is working properly the
animals are NOT made IN-sensible to pain?

Yes, I have noticed that the industry tries to make it sound like they use this for "humane" reasons. That's a load of crap, though. The stunner is strictly to facilitate line speed. Before they implemented the stunner down at that plant, the line ran 98 birds per minute, with two killers. After adding the stunner, it jumped the speed up to 120. Then, they added the killing machine, dropped one of the killers, and turned the speed up to 142. Now, of course, it runs 186 birds per minute. All it does is paralyze the muscles. It doesn't render them unconscious or make them insensible to pain. In Tyson's own words to the workers, "It makes the plant more efficient." I heard that from a shift superintendent. They never said anything about "humane." Humane treatment was never brought up. the only thing that is ever brought up in training, as far as the killer goes, is efficiency. Just get them killed or be fired. They don't care about "humane."

In answer to this, she wrote back this bit that prompted this post:

However you do it - perhaps a myriad of ways - let people know this bogus industry practice. Indeed, I have read mainstream media stories about poultry slaughter, and they all assume that the stunning is a humane feature of the mechanization of poultry slaughter. The industry does not, of course, do anything to set the record straight. That would never happen.

When you think of it... if you follow the logic... every chicken is bled out while still sentient. Would you agree?

Check this out, regarding beheading of a mammal, namely a human::::

Also: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/05/12/224912.php

It's pretty gory, but interesting. Excerpt:

"it hurts very much to have your head cut off, and the longer it takes, the worse it hurts. Once your spinal cord is cut and your head is severed you will continue to experience the full spectrum of pain, without the heavenly numb of shock-absorbing chemicals, which are back there with your body."

One last question:
Is a chicken sentient to pain even after having no blood in its body? I would assume not. Your thoughts?

And here was (most of) my answer to her:

Yes, every chicken is bled out while still sentient. They hang there and look at you while they are bleeding. You can definitely tell that they know what is going on. Sometimes if they are not completely immobilized by the stunner (which happens frequently), they will try to hide their head from you by sticking it under the wing of the chicken next to them. They will also flop around and peck at your hands as you are cutting their throats. One last futile act of self-defense, I guess. But, I have to agree that after all the blood is drained, they are past knowing. They will lose consciousness after a certain amount of blood is gone. That length of time depends on how well the killer does his job. If he doesn't get both carotid arteries, then you have what is called a "mis-cut." Even though the chicken is bleeding, he/she will still be alive until he/she hits the scalder. That's what will finally finish him/her. If the killer does his job properly, then it usually takes about 8-10 seconds before they lose consciousness. But the speed they come at you makes it hard to do a good job every time.

I sincerely hope that this clears up any questions anyone may have about the use of the "stunner." Please don't hesitate to write and ask questions like these if I haven't made something clear to you. If it isn't clear to you, then it's a good bet that it isn't clear to others as well. Although I may strive to make sure and give all the details I can think of about something, I am certainly far from perfect and have been guilty of assuming that people knew more than I thought they did. I have been made to realize on several occasions that I have not made some things clear enough for those not fully informed about the practices that go on in the slaughterhouses, the ones the catch crews employ, or even in the grow houses where they raise the chickens. There has also been quite a bit of interest in the mindset of someone that does this work, how it affects their life and their perspective, and whether it makes them more prone to violence toward other humans. (YES!!!) Again, if anyone ever has any questions that you have not found addressed here, or something has not been explained well enough to you, don't hesitate to shoot off an email to me. I'll be glad to answer you and clarify things here.

I'm glad to know that someone has found the "search this site" box useful. I never knew if anyone was using it or not. For those that never noticed it, by all means use it to find what you want to know. This blog is not the most organized because of the format it took, so I put that there to make finding answers to questions easier for readers so that you would not have to wade through endless archived entries to find the information you are seeking. One of these days, I look to have a better organized site under my own domain (I have a group offering me a free one!), but that has had to take a back seat, since Laura and I know nothing about HTML coding, and don't have much time to learn. I do hope to learn this, as I am interested in going back to school to learn more about computers. Gotta keep up, and this ol' body of mine has been too abused to keep doing physical labor for too many more years! LOL!

Oh, and I have added a new link to the sidebar you may find informative and interesting. Check out "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." (No, I didn't write it, but I agree with what it says.) The author called it "the mighty convincer." I agree with that, too. Good work, Pam. Thanks for writing. Your group does good work. Glad to add your link to my site.

Have a good day everyone. Done your good deed yet for today? If not, what are you waiting on?????

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

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