What Happens After an Undercover Investigation of a Factory Farm?

Do you ever wonder what happens after an animal advocacy organization releases an undercover investigation of factory farm workers abusing animals? Are these investigations worth the time, money, and risk they take to conduct? What can animal advocates do to support these initiatives?

On August 11, 2016, Compassion Over Killing (COK) released a video of Tyson Foods’ employees kicking chickens like footballs, stomping on their heads, and punching them in the face.

What Happened After COK Released the Undercover Investigation?
1. Tyson executives announced they fired the 10 employees caught beating up chickens. Tyson has been caught abusing animals multiple times by other organizations so this was not an isolated incident. In fact, Tyson has been exposed five times in the past year alone! These acts of senseless violence are rampant within the company. Criminal charges may be filed against the employees, however, there are no current federal cruelty laws that protect chickens from abuse and the Animal Welfare Act excludes poultry.

2. Tyson announced they will be retraining employees on the proper handling of the animals they confine, deprive, and kill. Given their history of cruelty, it is clear that more action must be taken.

3. Hundreds of customers expressed outrage on Tyson’s social media. They stated they will stop eating chicken or all meat, or will boycott Tyson. Sadly, the horrible abuse these animals face is standard in the chicken industry.

4. People called Tyson’s corporate office and complained to try to keep the pressure on. Since Tyson has been repeatedly exposed, they should have taken steps years ago to remedy these practices.

5. Compassion Over Killing started a petition to insist Tyson stop starving birds. The petition has 80,000 signatures thus far. Tyson stated they have eliminated the practice of “boning” male chickens to severely restrict their food intake; however, the underlying issue remains — that Tyson’s breeder birds are bred to grow so obese so quickly that the company perpetually starves these birds in an attempt to curb health defects.

6. The undercover investigation video has more than 2 million views on Facebook and more than 100,000 on YouTube. It’s unknown how many of those people currently eat animals–the target audience. While there are anecdotal comments from people who eat animals that they will eat fewer animals or stop eating animals after seeing the video, a study should be conducted to determine who these videos reach and how they affect people’s decisions. The overriding goal of the videos should be to reduce the consumption of animals. How to accomplish that objective in a measurable way should be the driving force of the campaign.

7. The undercover investigation received news coverage from media outlets throughout the world. The impact of the stories, like the video, remains unmeasured.

8. I called every member of the House and Senate Committee on Agriculture, referred them to the video, explained the history, and asked them to call Tyson Foods’ executives before their committee to explain why they continue to get caught abusing animals. No action has been taken to date. Your elected representatives on these committees are very busy bailing out the cheese industry with your taxpayer dollars.

Are Undercover Investigations Worth the Time, Money, and Risk?
This is a complex question that must be determined through research. To answer it, we would have to compare the time, money, and risk it takes an organization to conduct an investigation and its outcomes and compare it to other options. No organization should be hesitant to ask the question: Is there something else that we can do that will result in more corporate accountability and legislative action and influence more people to stop eating animals? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The investigations are worthwhile if the goal is to accomplish the outcomes listed above. If the goal is to reduce the consumption of animals, the answer is unknown since the impact of these investigations on corporate policies is a small set of data and their impact on eating habits hasn’t been determined. We can reasonably assume seeing these videos changes minds but to what degree and for how long in comparison to other approaches is also unknown.

At a minimum, the investigations may lead to less cruel treatment of the animals these corporations confine and kill. New laws protecting animals or companies shifting to plant-based options would further solidify the value of undercover investigations.

How Can Animal Advocates Support Undercover Investigations?
Here is a list of tasks farmed animal advocates can complete to ensure this undercover investigation was worth the time, money, and risk this brave investigator and COK took to conduct it:

1. Share the video.

2. Call Tyson Foods and express your disgust.

3. Call the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture and demand accountability and laws that protect farmed animals.

4. Support the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in their efforts to insist the USDA, HCA, OSHA, and SEC hold Tyson Foods accountable following their own investigation of Tyson’s abusive practices.

5. Donate to organizations that conduct undercover investigations, educate the public, and rescue farmed animals.

6. Volunteer.

7. Offer new solutions to combat animal agriculture.

8. Regularly read research studies on what works in animal advocacy.

Tyson Foods and the many other corporations caught abusing animals are counting on your silence. For the sake of the animals, please take action today. Thank you.

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