A former Fresno chicken slaughterhouse worker pleaded no contest Tuesday to misdemeanor animal cruelty after he was caught on camera ripping fistfuls of feathers out of live chickens, beating them with a severed chicken leg and throwing them around repeatedly.
Animal rights group Mercy For Animals was working an undercover video operation at one of two Foster Farms facilities in Fresno when Gabriel Cevallos, a worker at the facility, was seen beating live birds on camera. The graphic video was posted to the Mercy For Animals site, where it can still be seen.
Cevallos was sentenced on Tuesday to three years of probation, a $600 fine and must attend mental health counseling, Fresno County Superior Court records show. Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said Cevallos is due back in court next July to ensure he completed the terms of his sentence.
Foster Farms is one of the largest poultry processors in the West. A Mercy For Animals spokesman says the American Humane Association has certified Foster Farms as humane, despite “pervasive animal abuse” in its poultry supply chain. The AHA standards are barely above minimal standards set by the factory farming industry, the group says.
In a previous report in The Fresno Bee, Los Angeles veterinarian Armati May described the graphic video as “some of the more horrifying, egregious abuse and neglect” she had ever seen.
The animal rights group is advocating for humane animal welfare requirements, such as larger spaces for animals, clean litter and access to adequate light.
In a statement, Foster Farms said it took immediate action and fired five employees who were either involved in harming chickens or witnessed such behavior and did not report it.
“Foster Farms does not tolerate animal cruelty in any form,” the company said.
Foster Farms noted it has passed a review done by the American Humane Association, and that it has since re-emphasized training in animal welfare and added video surveillance at its plants.
“We believe raising chickens humanely is the right thing to do, and we take our commitment to humane values very seriously,” the company said