Animal activists staged a peaceful protest at a Foster Farms processing facility yesterday, which resulted in 13 arrests. Foster Farms, the largest poultry producer in the state, has frequently been the target of animal cruelty allegations.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an international network of animal rights activists, was behind the campaign.
Hundreds of demonstrators turned up to show support for the cause. Many hoped to disrupt the meat company’s supply chain; Foster Farms produces chicken for Amazon and Chick-fil-A, one of the largest fast food chains in America.
More than a dozen activists physically locked themselves in place during the protest, preventing trucks from bringing live chickens in or taking meat out. Other protesters managed to save four chickens from the operation. Two of the birds were rescued directly from the conveyor belt ‘moments from slaughter’, DxE said.
The animal rights organization shared a Facebook livestream of the protest, which lasted for eight hours before being shut down. Eleven activists are still in jail on a $50,000 bail.
DxE recently released hidden camera footage of the same facility to coincide with the action. The video – filmed by an anonymous investigator over the past two months – shows repeated violations of animal welfare laws, according to DxE.
In the footage, chickens are seen moving along an automated assembly line. Many birds avoided the stun bath and reached the blade fully conscious. Other animals lifted their heads away from the blade, only to have their throats slit by workers as they passed by, at a rate of more than 100 birds per minute.
According to DxE, Foster Farms’ processes violate its company policy, its American Humane animal welfare certification, and California law. However, state and local authorities have ignored formal complaints against the poultry producer, the animal rights group says.
Christina Liu is an organizer with DxE San Francisco Bay Area and attended the protest yesterday. Liu said in a statement: “Animals are being eviscerated alive — right here, right now. These practices are horrifying and illegal — but they’re also business-as-usual for the factory farming industry.”
Foster Farms controversy
Foster Farms is no stranger to backlash, having received multiple fines for its conduct in the past. These controversies span back decades, and include environmental and human rights issues too.
In 1998, Foster Farms pleaded guilty to discharging around 11 million gallons of stormwater polluted with decomposed chicken manure into a wildlife refuge. The behavior eliminated a protected species, the vernal pool tadpole shrimp, and the company received a $500,000 fine.
In 2015, Foster Farms was fined $44,000 for releasing untreated chicken processing wastewater. The following year, it reached a $10,125 settlement for violating air quality regulations.
More recently, its Livingston facility (where yesterday’s protests were held) was fined nearly $200,000 for COVID-19 violations. This conduct led to the infection of more than 400 employees and the death of at least eight people.
“Factory farming companies like Foster Farms exploit vulnerable humans and animals for profit, with catastrophic impacts that affect us all,” said Liu. “We’re fighting back while we still have time.”