The slaughter process for poultry is quite different from the process for livestock. Normally, chickens are taken from the barns in which they are raised, placed in cages, and transported by truck to the plant at which they will be slaughtered. Upon arrival, they are manually removed from the cages and hung upside down by their legs from metal shackles. The shackles are part of an automated “line,” with chicken following closely upon chicken in single file (Northcutt, 2007).
Depending on the speed with which the line is moving, the chickens may hang upside down for several minutes before arriving at the first station. That station consists of a shallow trough filled with salty water. The water is electrified, and the birds’ heads are dragged though the trough. The shock immobilizes the birds, but is designed not to kill them; they will not “bleed out” as completely if they enter cardiac arrest at this point (Fletcher, 2008).
The paralysis of the birds prevents them from struggling as they move down the line, and the paralysis of their feather follicles makes it easier to remove the feathers. Some scientists believe that most birds are rendered insensible (stunned) by the shock, while others believe that they remain conscious. Even assuming that the current stuns most birds, some will twist and avoid the water and therefore will not be stunned. This is especially true of smaller birds. Others, whose wings are hanging down past their heads, may eventually be stunned, but will receive a painful electric shock first as their wings make the initial contact with the water (Peterson, 2007).
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