Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eating Misery: Contamination and Cruelty are Linked in Chickens Raised for Food

Posted by thomaspainescorner on May 7, 2009


[Protest Oprah's Giving Away KFC Chicken Meals

Oprah made this offer to her millions of viewers on yesterday's show (May 5). She said she was helping everyone during this recession by collaborating with Kentucky Fried Chicken in offering a free meal to all who download the coupon from her website.

Please contact Oprah at and tell her what you think.]

Essay by Karen Davis, PhD


Chickens raised for food are treated horribly and they are very unhealthy. They are crammed by the thousands into filthy, dark buildings loaded with bacteria, bird flu viruses, toxic funguses, and poisonous gases that burn their eyes, their skin and their lungs. With no sunshine, fresh air, or normal activities, chickens develop painful skeletal deformities, soft watery muscles, pus-filled lungs, and heart disease. Their immune systems cannot cope with the toxic load. Some people argue that when we eat the flesh and eggs of creatures who are treated so badly, we assimilate something of their experience and carry it forward into our own lives. The possibility that a chicken’s suffering could somehow persist, invisibly, in the body tissues and “juices” is frightful. But is it fanciful?

Once bacteria and other microbes were just a “theory.” We could not see them, yet they existed. Historically, the United States government did not mandate inspection for disease microbes in animals slaughtered for food. However, poultry product contamination is not just the result of an inadequate inspection system. Disease organisms are ubiquitous in poultry-producing facilities throughout the world, and poultry is the most common cause of food poisoning in the home.

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration ordered the poultry industry to stop using the antibiotic Baytril, because its use was preventing its human-label counterpart, Cipro, from treating people with Campylobacter infections resulting, very frequently, from contaminated chicken and turkey products. The poultry industry counters that limiting antibiotics in birds raised for food actually increases Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, adding to the human health risk.

Campylobacteriosis - which causes severe abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea and can cause a paralytic disease in people with fatal nerve damage known as Guillain-Barre syndrome - has increased dramatically in the past 25 years. Retail chicken products and packaging have been found “literally dripping with campylobacter.”

In 2007, Consumer Reports announced that tests on chickens purchased from U.S. supermarkets and specialty stores in twenty-three states showed 84 percent of chickens contaminated with Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria - a substantial increase over 2003 tests showing 49 percent of chickens infected.

In addition, 84 percent of the Salmonella and 67 percent of the Campylobacter bacteria showed resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria samples from contaminated chickens tested for sensitivity to antibiotics showed evidence of resistance “not just to individual drugs but to multiple classes of drugs.” People sickened by poultry products might therefore “need to try several antibiotics before finding one that works,” Consumer Reports observed.

Foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter don’t necessarily just “go away.” They can migrate from people’s intestines to other body parts - blood, bones, nerves, organs, and joints - to cause seemingly unrelated diseases that emerge later in life, such as arthritis.

Plans are not underway to reduce the crowding, filth and stress that sicken birds and humans alike. Chickens have been and will continue to be rendered genetically infirm in order to meet mass-marketing demands. Chicken houses are larger and more densely crowded than ever, and they cannot be made clean. Every part of the house as well as the bird’s own body is a haven and breeding ground for disease organisms.

Now as in the 1990s, only superficial solutions are promoted - food irradiation, chlorine - the most commonly used carcass and equipment disinfectant in the poultry industry - and other fake fixes. Government-industry assurances notwithstanding, consumers of poultry products risk significant health problems from handling and eating products derived from sick, overwhelmingly stressed birds. Nor are infectious diseases the only illnesses to worry about. Bladder, respiratory, and skin cancers have been linked to growth-promoting arsenic compounds in chicken feed. The solution, in the opinion of many people including myself, is to enjoy wholesome and compassionate all-vegetarian (vegan) foods.

Karen Davis, PhD, is the director and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Karen is the author of several books including, most recently, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Company, 1996; Newly Revised Edition, 2009). All of the information in this article can be found fully documented in this book. This article was written for a forthcoming issue of Total Health Magazine (

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

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