Animal welfare group targets Tyson Foods

by Erica Shaffer
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COTATI, Calif. – Claiming recent animal welfare problems at Tyson Foods, Inc. facilities aren’t isolated incidents, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) initiated four separate actions with federal agencies after releasing undercover video footage taken at a Tyson poultry plant in Carthage, Texas.

But Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson defended the company’s animal welfare and handling practices. He said the company is still reviewing the video, but he emphasized that Tyson Foods is “absolutely committed” to proper animal handling.

“Everyone who works with live animals in our plants — including the person who secretly shot this video — is trained in proper animal handling and instructed to report anything they believe is inappropriate,” he said in a statement. “They can report to their supervisor, the Tyson Foods compliance and ethics hotline and even one of the USDA inspectors who have access to all parts of the plant, including live animal handling areas. During the timeframe we believe this video was shot, we have no record of any employees reporting claims of animal handling violations.

“In addition to training, we regularly conduct our own internal animal handling audits in our plants. Our operations are also subject to third party audits,” Mickelson added.

The ALDF asked the Attorney General of Delaware to investigate Tyson Foods and impose sanctions against the company. Additionally, the group filed a complaint with the US Dept. of Agriculture over what the group says is “inhumane animal handling practices and food safety violations.”

“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods are not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director, said in a statement. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Dept. of Labor also received a complaint from the organization claiming unsafe working conditions for employees at the facility. Finally, ALDF filed a complaint with US Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that Tyson Foods overstated its priority of animal welfare in corporate and investor materials.

In response to the allegations of workplace safety violations, Mickelson said Tyson operates its processing plants well within the limits set by the USDA.

“The safety of our Team Members is very important to us. We continuously monitor our facilities to make sure they’re safe,” he explained. “Each Team Member is trained to work safely in their job and daily safety meetings are held to keep safety top of mind.

“Team Members can also report any workplace safety concerns to their supervisor, a member of management or our compliance and ethics hotline,” he said.
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