Chicken firm blasts PETA for animal-abuse claims

NORFOLK, VA: At first it seemed an animal-rights group got one of its targets to pay attention to its criticisms, but then the company decided to strike back.

NORFOLK, VA: At first it seemed an animal-rights group got one of its targets to pay attention to its criticisms, but then the company decided to strike back.

On July 20, The New York Times ran an exclusive from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on animal abuse at a Pilgrim's Pride chicken-processing plant. The piece started a wave of international coverage.

PETA had used an undercover operative in the West Virginia plant to videotape employees abusing chickens.

Texas-based Pilgrim's Pride issued a release quoting its CEO on July 20, saying that the abuse described by PETA contradicted its animal-welfare policies.

But as media coverage grew, Pilgrim's Pride issued a second release on July 21, saying the company had fired 11 employees involved in the incident. But it also attacked PETA for not telling it about the problems when they were first discovered months ago.

Dan Shannon, PETA's senior campaigns coordinator, said that Pilgrim's Pride failed to mention that the PETA undercover person had filed an anonymous complaint about abuse at the plant and "to the best of our knowledge, nothing was done."

Ray Atkinson, listed as the press contact on the Pilgrim's Pride release, said he was not the appropriate person to comment on why Pilgrim's Pride had decided to include that statement in its release.

He also would not comment on future communications plans by the company on the topic.

KFC's president held a press conference on July 21, trying to distance his company from Pilgrim's Pride by noting it was one of many customers of the plant. It plans no further communications on the matter, a company spokeswoman said.

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