Tyson Foods is investigating claims of animal abuse at a farm that grows chickens for Tyson, after animal rights group Mercy for Animals circulated a video that was allegedly filmed at that farm.

In its video, Mercy for Animals shows scenes of unhealthy chickens, and it accuses Tyson Foods of improper animal care and handling procedures.

“Animal well-being is a top priority for us,” Tyson Foods said in a statement. “We do not tolerate improper animal treatment and take claims of animal abuse very seriously. We are investigating this matter.

“We have programs and policies in place to protect the health and well-being of all our animals. This includes the Tyson FarmCheck program that involves third-party auditors who check on the farm for such things as animal access to food and water, human-animal interaction and worker training. We’re continually looking for ways to improve how we operate and this includes animal well-being. We’re constantly researching new ways to keep our chickens healthy and safe.”

Tyson Foods and the National Chicken Council (NCC) pointed out that the video was shot at a time when birds at the farm were sick with a respiratory illness, and that illness can lead to higher mortality rates.

“Just like humans, birds get sick.  But it is not indicative of this farm or broilers as a whole,” stated Tom Super, NCC senior vice president of communications.

Tyson Foods added that the illness shown by birds in the video does not pose a threat to food safety.

NCC also expressed concerned about how it appeared that Mercy for Animals was more intent on spreading an anti-agriculture message than trying to prevent chickens from suffering.

“It's unfortunate - and disturbing - that this group, whose goal is to make everyone vegans, sat on the video for more than four months, if they thought abuse was occurring,” Super said.