FREDERICKSBURG, Pa. – The owner of Bell & Evans, a Fredericksburg chicken processor, refuted claims of animal cruelty lodged by an animal-rights group that released an undercover video the group claims depicts inhumane treatment of chicks.

A member of Compassion Over Killing worked undercover inside a hatchery owned by Bell & Evans. The group claims its video depicts birds unfit for processing being dumped into a grinder while fully conscious, and dead birds being left in baskets with live birds.

Bell & Evans processes organic antibiotic-free chickens for sale to retailers such as Whole Foods and Wegmans. The company’s animal-welfare and handling standards are featured on its website. Scott Sechler, owner and chairman of Bell & Evans, responded to the claims in a letter posted to the website.

"It has come to my attention that the radical Washington-based activist group TryVeg/COK has planted an undercover agent at our hatchery with the goal to challenge Bell & Evans leadership in humane treatment of animals. The TryVeg mole was planted in our hatchery for two weeks with the goal to stage an attention-grabbing media show.

"Over my 40 years as a chicken farmer, I always strive to be the leading advocate of humane treatment for all animals,” he added. “At our hatchery, we've never strayed from humane animal best practices. It is our first priority and responsibility to euthanize only the sick and lame birds that would otherwise suffer.
"Most recently Bell & Evans installed the Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA) system, endorsed by Temple Grandin as the most humane process in the world," he continued.

Sechler went on to invite the leaders of Compassion Over Killing to a face-to-face meeting to discuss their concerns. Bell & Evans employees must sign an agreement to abide by the company's humane animal-handling policy and to report any violations of policy to a member of management.