The Poultry Industry

UPC Position Statement On the "Rights" of Poultry Workers and "Improving" Animal-Abusing Employment

The letter below represents United Poultry Concerns' position on the role of the animal advocacy movement towards the work-related complaints and demands by poultry industry workers, and, by extension, all workers whose employment consists of animal abuse, whether it be catching parrots for the pet trade or beating up elephants for the circus. The letter was written in response to the inclusion of the Reverend Jim Lewis as a speaker at the Fifth Annual Pace Law School Animals and the Law Conference on April 8, 2000. Rev. Lewis is a member of the Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance, which seeks to improve the working conditions and economic status of the men and women who raise, catch, truck, and slaughter chickens for a living.

Our position is that when opportunities arise for animal advocates to support other social justice movements on behalf of common goals that do not compromise the goal of animal protection and animal rights, this can be beneficial. But we cannot ally ourselves with those who would make cruel work more comfortable.

An Open Letter to the Fifth Annual Pace Law School
Animals and the Law Conference

From Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

April 8, 2000

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I would like to express our concern that the animal advocacy community would support employment that constitutes animal abuse. In particular, we are concerned that animal advocates would support making it more comfortable for people to work for the poultry industry. While we support social justice, we recognize that not all social justice interests are compatible and that not all jobs can be ethically supported. The unpleasantness of a job for a worker does not of itself entitle that job to be benefited. Some work is not fit to do. Raising animals for slaughter, rounding them up for slaughter, transporting, and killing them – the entire bundle of violent, cruel, abusive jobs that constitute the poultry industry cannot logically be supported by animal or peace advocates.

However underpaid, poultry industry employees are neither legal property nor slaves, whereas the birds are both. Workers' choices may be limited, but people with limited choices leave jobs all the time for reasons that are far less compelling than why a person should get out of the poultry industry instead of demanding better pay to abuse birds for a living. Poultry industry employees are not children but consenting adults, and while they may be victimized by Perdue and Tyson, etc., they themselves violently and directly victimize animals. The fact that they do not object to such work as long as they get sufficiently paid to do it shows the insensitivity and lack of empathy such work produces.

United Poultry Concerns opposes any alliance that animal advocates would make with individuals or groups that support and perpetuate animal abusing employment. Commitment to a worthwhile life for humans and nonhuman animals means supporting morally responsible occupations, not cruel and unconscionable ones, like working for the poultry industry. Making it more lucrative and "dignified" for people to mistreat animals is a misguided approach for animal advocates to take. It is a betrayal of our mission and a betrayal of the birds and other animals whom our species has already desolated and deprived of everything but misery, horror, and murder. Helping people to feel and be more comfortable in a cruel and abusive occupation does not help them. It would be wrong for the animal advocacy community to facilitate the illusion that it does.