HSUS Files Lawsuit to Force USDA to Oversee Poultry Slaughter

The Humane Society of the United States and East Bay Animal Advocates filed a lawsuit today seeking to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate and oversee the slaughter of poultry. The USDA currently excludes poultry from its oversight of animals covered by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

The lawsuit will turn largely on the definition of the word livestock.

The HMSA requires the USDA to ensure that “cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine and other livestock” are humanely slaughtered. The USDA does not define livestock to include poultry. Animal rights activists maintain that poultry indeed qualify as livestock.

According to an HSUS press release announcing the lawsuit

Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president of Animal Protection Litigation for The HSUS states, “When Congress enacted the HMSA, the dictionary definition of ‘livestock’ was ‘domestic animals used or raised on a farm.’ Yet today, nearly 50 years later, 95 percent of domestic animals raised on farms are still entirely unprotected during the slaughter process.”

Currently the USDA does inspect poultry slaughter facilities, but for safety reasons rather than for compliance with humane slaughter regulations.

According to a Washington Post story on the lawsuit, however,

Although there is no specific humane handling and slaughter law for poultry, he [USDA spokesman Steven Cohen] said, inspectors and veterinarians stationed in every poultry processing plant “monitor production so i a plant has evidence of excessive bruising or other conditions that would indicate handling in a manner inconsistent with humane handling, we would necessarily look into that operation.


The HSUS Files Lawsuit Challenging USDA’s Exclusion of Birds from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, November 21, 2005.

Humane Society to Sue Over Poultry Slaughtering. Elizabeth Williamson, Washington Post, November 21, 2005.

U.S. FDA Bans Antibiotic Baytril In Poultry

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a report announcing that the antibiotic Baytril would be banned from use in poultry effective September 12, 2005. The drug will remain on the market and approved for use in treating infections in dogs, cats and cows.

The FDA took the extraordinary move out of concern that use of Baytril in poultry could lead to antibiotic-resistant form of the campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is common in the intestines of turkey and chickens, but it doesn’t usually cause the animals disease. When Baytril is administered to poultry, it tends to lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistant forms of the bacteria.

The FDA fears that, while not causing illness to poultry, these antibiotic resistant forms of campylobacter could find their way to human beings, impairing the ability of existing antibiotics to treat these human infections.

The Associated Press reported that,

Resistant bacteria my be present in poultry sold at retail outlets. [FDA commissioner Lester] Crawford noted that since the drug was introduced for poultry in the 1990s, the proportion of resistant campylobacter infections in humans has risen significantly.

That can prolong the length of infections in people and increase the risk of complications, Crawford said. Complications can include reactive arthritis and blood stream infections.

Bayer, the manufacturer of Baytril, has 60 days to appeal the FDA’s decision.

The full FDA report on Baytril can be read here (2 mb PDF file).


FDA bans use of Baytril in poultry. Randolph Schmid, Associated Press, July 29, 2995.

In Pennsylvania, At Least, Turkey Hunting Is Most Dangerous

The March 2005 issue of The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical care included a study in which researchers examined hunting-related accidents in Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1999. The study found that turkey hunting caused the most accidents, but found an incredibly low rate of accident for all hunting.

Pennsylvania has a Fall turkey season, and over the 12 year period studied by researchers, turkey hunters had an accident rate of 7.5 per 100,000 hunters. Grouse hunters had the lowest accident rate, with just 1.9 per 100,000 hunters.

Deer hunting accidents were, however, the most likely to result in fatalities with fully 10.3 percent of hunting accidents resulting in a death.

The research found that poor judgment was, in general, the biggest cause of hunting accidents except for deer hunting where poor skills were the most common cause of accidents.

Since the risk of accidents were higher among those under 20 than older hunters, the study recommended more safety instruction. It also recommended the reintroduction of requirements that hunters wear orange clothing, noting that hunting accidents had been declining after the introduction of such a requirement, but began increasing again following the lifting of that requirement in Pennsylvania.


Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents in Pennsylvania, 1987-1999. Joseph L. Smith, MD, et al, Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care, 58(3):582-590, March 2005.

Study finds turkey hunting is most dangerous. Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, March 10, 2005.

Karen Davis on Bird Brains

The Washington Post recently published a summary of new research on avian brains that suggests they are more complex than previously believed which, in part, has implications for how birds evolved. Specifically, the researchers found that avian brains are more mammalian than previously believed and call for changing the nomenclature that scientists use to describe the avian brain to reflect this finding.

This, of course, was an open invitation for United Poultry Concerns’ Karen Davis to chime in with her twist on the new findings about avian brains. In a letter published in the Washington Post on February 12, Davis wrote,

Rick Weiss’s Feb. 1 news story, “Bird Brains Get Some New Names, And New Respect,” was deeply gratifying to those of us who spend our days with birds. We have been waiting to see scientific language and understanding catch up with the reality of bird intelligence. I spend my days with domestic chickens and turkeys, birds that have long been denigrated as stupid, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Just watch a hen calculate how to speed to her perch at night to avoid a certain attentive rooster in the way, and you know that a smart chick is looking out for her own interests.

The day may come when to be called a “chicken” or a “turkey” will be rightly regarded as a salute to a person’s intelligence.

I think there’s some opening for common ground here between activists and opponents. I think we can all agree that the chickens and turkeys Davis spends her days with are at least as intelligent as she is. See, we really can all get along.

And I can’t leave this without pointing out that when UPC posted a copy of Davis’ letter to AR-NEWS, they also urged people wanting more information about this research to visit AvianBrain.Org. I promptly followed their suggestion, but was horrified to see what are clearly the results of animal research all over the site, including illustrated cross-sections of the avian brain.

What about the animals who died for just to satisfy the curiosity of these mad scientists? I thought research like this was done just to make researchers rich?


Letter to the editor. Karen Davis, Washington Post, February 12, 2005.

Gary Yourofsky — Killing Researchers Is Okay, But Don't Touch That Turkey!

One of the more absurd commentaries on dietary choices for Thanksgiving had to come from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Gary Yourofsky lecturing people about choosing tofu over turkey.

Yourofsky told about 30 students gathered at Midwestern State University,

I do not eat anything – or a product of anything – with a face, a mother or a bowl movement. . . . But I’m not an animal lover. Call me anything but an animal lover. . . . [I want] simple decency [for animals] . . .of all the exploited beings on earth, animals are the most terrorized.

Apparently Yourofsky has forgotten his advocacy of terrorizing anyone who dares disagree with him. As he told The Toledo Blade in the Summer of 2001, “we must be willing to do whatever it takes to gain their [animals] freedom and stop their torture.” When asked if this extended to killing “animal abusers” Yourofsky said, without missing a beat, “I would unequivocally support that, too.”

Yourofsky’s concern about simple decency and terrorism stops with his fellow human beings.


PETA rep pitches turkey-less holiday. Brye Butler, Times Record News (Texas), November 30, 2002.

PETA's Turkey Terrorist Television Ad

Just in time for Thanksgiving, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals produced a television commercial that draws on fear of terrorism to sell the vegetarian message.

The ad shows terrorists taking over a supermarket, with the store manager bound and gagged and shoppers cowering in fear while an unseen terrorist declares that innocent creatures will be beaten, scaled and dismembered if anyone resists.

At the end of the commercial, the terrorist is revealed to be a turkey puppet whose demand is that people stop eating meat.

Well, it is certainly consistent with PETA’s message that it is okay to use both violence and threats of violence to further the animal rights movement. After all, when serial killer Andrew Cunanan murdered fashion designer Versace, it was left to PETA’s Dan Mathews to proclaim that he admired Cunanan for finally getting Versace to stop using fur.

PETA’s Lisa Lange told The New York Times that,

A fake supermarket takeover has zip to do with the events of Sept. 11. You’d really have to be a big grump not to see the humor in all of this.

A big grump? Or perhaps someone aware of the numerous statements and actions by PETA staffers in sympathy with and support of animal rights violence.

Fortunately, only a single television station actually accepted the commercial, and PETA tried to gain a bit of additional press by announcing their “withdrawal” of the advertisement before it could be shown on that station.


‘Turkey Terror’ Ad by Animal Rights Group. The New York Times, November 28, 2002.