Clandestine Video of Poultry Abuse at Wallops Farm Spurs Outrage

By Linda Cicoira — A graphic video that depicts chicken abuse at a local poultry farm supplying Tyson Foods was released by an animal welfare group this week causing 10 employees of a contracted crew to be fired and the association with Atlantic Farm LLC to be terminated.

“We’re outraged by what’s shown in this video,” Tyson President of Poultry Operations Doug Ramsey said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “The actions of these people are egregious, inexcusable and will not be tolerated by Tyson Foods.”

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that everyone who works for and raises animals for our company treats animals properly,” he continued. “Within an hour of seeing this video (Tuesday), we confirmed the location and owner of the farm. We are terminating the contract with the farmer who allowed these actions to take place and are removing any of our birds from his care.”

The recording included baby chicks being hit with pipes and young larger chickens being left in buckets to die with birds that already succumbed, some deformed from rapid-growth hormones.

Atlantic Farm has nine chicken houses and is near Wallops Island. The property was initially owned by Steve and Fred Darby. It was sold several years ago to the limited liability corporation. It is unclear who owns it. But three men use the mailing address associated with the company. They are Ali Razwan, who also owns Shore Livestock LLC,  Mohammad Iqbal of Worcester County, Md., and Talib Cheema of Brooklyn, N.Y. The address is on Bethel Church Road in Mears.

“The people in this video were trained in proper animal handling, yet chose to ignore their training,” Justin Whitmore, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president of corporate strategy for Tyson also was quoted in the release. “They failed to alert management about the treatment on this farm and utterly failed to uphold a simple Tyson Foods core value of treating animals in their care humanely. A non-negotiable condition of employment or any contract agreement with Tyson Foods is a dedication to treating animals properly.”

Whitmore said, “Despite these bad actors and their shameful actions, the management of Tyson Foods continues to be dedicated to proper animal handling and cultivating our culture to ensure that animals are treated properly.”

Tyson also plans to stress to employees the importance of proper handling. “We have animal well-being audit and training programs in place, including nearly 60 full-time dedicated animal well-being specialists across our beef, pork and poultry operations …with a zero tolerance for anyone who does not comply,” Whitmore said.

“This latest investigation marks the second time in little more than a year that COK (Compassion Over Killing of Washington, D.C.) has exposed horrific cruelty to birds within the poultry giant’s supply chain,” said Erica Meier, the agency’s executive director.  “Our hidden-camera footage uncovers the egregious and systemic horrors Tyson allows its birds to endure behind closed doors. It’s time for Tyson to be a true leader by tackling the most pressing issues in its industry today by immediately ending the genetic manipulation of birds for rapid growth and expanding its investment in the consumer-driven future of food: plant-based proteins.”

“COK has submitted its evidence to authorities and is encouraging immediate enforcement of Virginia’s animal protection laws,” she said. “In 2016, a COK investigation inside multiple Tyson Foods broiler breeder factories in Virginia revealed similar violent abuses: workers punching, kicking, and throwing live birds, birds crushed by forklifts, and more. The video evidence drove the first court trials for cruelty to chickens raised for meat, resulting in nine former Tyson employees being convicted of 24 counts of animal cruelty. It also prompted the company to immediately eliminate the barbaric practice of stabbing a plastic nose bone through the nostrils of male breeder birds, but Tyson has yet to address a root cause of suffering: rapid growth.”