People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit last week with the Los Angeles Superior Court against the California Department of Food and Agriculture asserting that electric stunning—the practice of rendering chickens unconscious by dunking them in electrified water before slaughter—is a violation of California’s Humane Slaughter Law. Chickens are not covered under the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, but California amended its state law in 1991 to include poultry. However, when filing a public record request, PETA found no documents detailing what goes on inside poultry slaughterhouses in the state. Martina Bernstein, director of litigation for PETA said, “The California Department of Food and Agriculture has an obligation to prevent chickens and other birds from having their throats slit while fully conscious. The department does absolutely nothing to prevent that.” PETA says it wants the court to declare electric stunning of birds in water unlawful and for the Department of Agriculture to enforce California’s Humane Slaughter Law. Electric stunning inadequately stuns one third of chickens, leaving them conscious when their throats are slit or when they are submerged in scalding defeathering tanks.
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