On its official website, Wayne County, located in northeast Nebraska, bills itself as “livestock friendly.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is disputing that claim after learning that TWJ Farms — a poultry farm in Carroll, Neb. — has allegedly slaughtered as many as 140,000 live adult chickens this year by feeding them through a grinding machine. Based on whistleblower testimony, PETA alleges the company is scheduled to pulverize more hens no longer suitable for egg production on Nov. 12, the second time this year the farm has used the method as a means of depopulation. PETA believes the procedure violates Nebraska’s Livestock Welfare Act. TWJ Farms declined to comment for this story, but CEO Joe Claybaugh told local radio station KEXL in Norfolk that the procedure is more humane than other euthanasia methods because it kills the chickens instantly. “Our witness says that is not the case,” says Dan Paden, senior research associate in PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department. “[The hens] are spit out of the machine and routinely suffer. It is not an acceptable way to kill unwanted chickens. It mutilates them and tears them up, so it’s not humane.” Nebraska’s Livestock Welfare Act prohibits “knowingly and intentionally kill[ing] … a livestock animal in a manner that is not consistent with animal welfare practices.” Those methods are defined in the same act as veterinarian and animal husbandry practices common to the livestock industry. Neither the American Veterinary Medical Association nor the United Egg Producers — a cooperative of egg farmers representing 95 percent of the industry — approves maceration (the industry term for the procedure) as an acceptable form of slaughter for chickens more than one day old. On Nov. 4, Paden sent letters to Claybaugh and Wayne County Sheriff LeRoy Janssen detailing PETA’s concerns. He told The Reader Monday that he’s still awaiting a response. “We made our plea to the company and that’s obviously fallen on deaf ears,” Paden says. “Our eyes are now on the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, and we expect that if charges are warranted that they be filed.”

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