Undercover footage, despite ag-gag threats, reveals shocking animal cruelty

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Mercy For Animals’ “Frankenchicken” investigation unveils a real-life horror story at the nation’s second-largest poultry company.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 1, 2024) — Hidden-camera footage from a Mercy For Animals investigator exposes cruelty to chickens at various Kentucky contract farms for Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, the second-largest poultry company in the United States. Despite looming “ag-gag” threats, the investigation reveals chickens in overcrowded, filthy conditions being kicked against barn walls and thrown into cramped transport cages at facilities raising animals for Pilgrim’s Pride, which supplies major restaurant chains, including KFC and Popeyes.

Footage shows what is at stake as Kentucky considers Senate bill 16, a type of ag-gag legislation. Ag-gag laws seek to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from and threaten First Amendment rights for whistleblowers, including undercover investigators, workers, journalists, and others who expose animal-welfare, food-safety, environmental, and workplace violations at factory farms and food-processing facilities. If passed, SB 16 would criminalize capturing and sharing footage of the deplorable conditions in which farmed animals are raised, transported, and slaughtered.

“Without strong government oversight at factory farms, whistleblowing is an important safeguard against unsanitary practices,” said Alex Cerussi, senior state policy manager at Mercy For Animals. “Kentucky’s Senate bill 16 is dangerous legislation blatantly designed to keep the public in the dark about cruelty and hazards in industrial animal agriculture. This bill isn’t about protecting small Kentucky family farms; it’s about shielding massive corporations from accountability for the harms they cause to animals, workers, and consumers. The public deserves to know what happens in factory farms and food-processing facilities.”

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The chickens in the footage have been selectively bred to grow monstrously large unnaturally fast, reaching market weight when they are still juveniles, at just six weeks old. These “Frankenchickens” endure lives of misery, often struggling to stand or walk, as their bodies can’t support their weight. Many suffer organ failure or heart attacks before they even make it to the slaughterhouse.

Pilgrim’s raises and kills around a billion Frankenchickens a year. 

As more people discover the animal welfare issues in the poultry industry, the call for more ethical practices grows louder, emphasizing the pressing need for change for food businesses such as Pilgrim’s, Tyson, and Sanderson—the nation’s largest poultry companies. 

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Ag-gag laws, like the bill in Kentucky, threaten transparency and the public’s right to know the facts behind their food.

Notes to Editors

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Ronnika A. McFall at [email protected]

Mercy For Animals is a leading international nonprofit working to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system. Active in Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico and the United States, the organization has conducted over 100 investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses, influenced over 500 corporate policies and helped pass historic legislation to ban cages for farmed animals. Join us at The Mercy For Animals 25th Anniversary Gala to honor those who fight for compassionate alternatives to the status quo and a world where all animals are respected, protected and free.

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