CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Eleven workers from a poultry processing plant have been fired and fast-food giant KFC (search) has halted purchases from the facility following the release of a secretly shot video showing employees kicking and stomping live chickens.
Pilgrim's Pride (search), among the largest poultry producers in the United States and Mexico, terminated three managers and eight hourly workers at its plant in Moorefield. The company said it was continuing an investigation.
The Pittsburg, Texas-based firm said Wednesday it has put quality assurance monitors on both shifts at the Moorefield plant, and managers at its 24 other North American plants were told to educate workers about animal welfare policies.
KFC President Gregg Dedrick said the company will stop buying from the Moorefield plant until Pilgrim's Pride can ensure no future abuse will occur. KFC also will place a full-time inspector in the plant to watch for further abuse.
The moves come a day after grainy videotape was released over the Internet by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (search) showing employees "ripping birds' beaks off, spray-painting their faces, twisting their heads off, spitting tobacco into their mouths and eyes, and breaking them in half — all while the birds are still alive."
PETA and the Humane Society of the United States (search) want Hardy County Prosecutor Lucas See to charge the workers and managers with felony animal cruelty. See said Wednesday he has not finished viewing the videotapes.
PETA has been pressuring KFC since last year, when it sued the company and called for a boycott, demanding that KFC require suppliers to treat animals more humanely. PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said the group wants, among other things, all KFC suppliers to install cameras on slaughter lines.
Separately, the Humane Society's president, Wayne Pacelle, demanded that Congress hold hearings on the videotape and called for the expansion of federal laws to protect poultry from abuse. A Pilgrim's Pride spokesman, Ray Atkinson, said the company would cooperate with any government investigation.