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<div class="quote-block">In the debate over poultry processing, producers and animal rights activists can agree on one thing: Consumers don't want to know the gruesome details.<br><br><br><br>
As millions of Americans sit down for dinner each night, no one wants to think about the waste-filled sheds, crammed cages and electric stun baths that were part of the chicken's life before it became a delicious drumstick, nugget or wing.<br><br><br><br>
That's the conclusion the Farm Marketing Institute shared with poultry industry professionals at this week's International Poultry Exposition, which ended Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.<br><br><br><br>
Animal right activists agree, and that's why People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is publicizing the most common form of chicken slaughter: a stun bath designed to knock the birds out, then the animals throats are slit and they are dumped into scalding water.<br><br><br><br>
PETA says many birds are conscious until the hot water kills them.<br><br><br><br>
Chicken industry officials say the method is safe, humane and efficient, and consumers don't want to hear about it.<br><br><br><br>
"The message came out clear that the customer said, we trust you as the retailers to make sure that the food you're selling us has been produced under animal welfare guidelines," said Jill Hollingsworth, FMI's vice president of animal safety programs, who's working with the industry to draft a set of ethics guidelines.<br><br><br><br>
Animal rights activists say people might stop eating chickens if they knew about the gory process.<br><br><br><br>
"As Paul McCartney said, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian," said Bruce Friedrich, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Chickens are probably the most abused animals on the face of the planet."<br><br><br><br>
With worldwide vegetarianism an unlikely ideal, PETA has set its sights on reform. They launched a national boycott of KFC last week, saying the company should make sure its suppliers provide better living conditions for birds. They also want the stun bath method of slaughter done away with, advocating lethal doses of gas instead.<br><br><br><br>
Industry officials say that would be too costly.<br><br><br><br>
Speaking at the Thursday's workshop, Janice Swanson, a Kansas State University professor specializing in animal welfare, made a distinction between science and sentimentality.<br><br><br><br>
Swanson cited scientific research on the amount of cage space needed for a comfortable, productive chicken - about 72 square inches - but acknowledged that research may not convince activists.<br><br><br><br>
"They already made the decision that cages are all bad, so any increase to the space in a cage is not going to please special advocacy groups," she said, adding that it will be up to individual producers to decide how they want to treat chickens.<br><br><br><br>
Friedrich calls the research "laughable," saying that number forces chickens to be "literally living one on top of the other for their entire miserable lives."<br><br><br><br>
"Chickens should be glad to be chickens," he said. "They're intelligent, interesting animals who have as much rights as a dog or cat to breathe fresh air, form relationships and do the things that animals want to do."<br></div>
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