Watching the online video which is said to be the result of an “undercover investigation” by a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) operative at the Butterfield Foods spent hen processing facility in Butterfield, Minnesota, left me with one big question: Where was the backup killer? Most poultry slaughter facilities in the U.S. utilize electrical water bath stunning which is followed by an automated kill machine and backed up by a person with a knife to make the appropriate neck cut on any bird that is missed by the automated system. You can’t see an individual in the video in the backup kill position, but you do see some birds that are uncut going into the scalder. In fact, I even saw one bird that looked like it hadn’t even been stunned going into the scalder.

I asked HSUS about the backup killer and whether the “investigator” was supposed to be filling that role on the line when the video was shot. Leana Stormont, senior attorney, HSUS, replied, “There was no backup killer and we specifically cite this failure in the CTA (Cruelty to Animals Act) complaint as a failure on the company’s fault to have operating procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen.” HSUS dodged the question of whether the investigator was supposed to be the backup killer, because saying that you don’t see a backup killer doesn’t mean that you weren’t supposed to be the backup killer.

I asked HSUS if the Butterfield plant doesn’t have a backup killer position or whether the position on the line was just unfilled when the video was recorded. Mary Beth Sweetland, spokesperson, HSUS, replied, “Our investigator never saw a backup killer. The birds went through the neck-cutting machine and exited a little window between the kill room floor and the scald tank. Some were even still bleeding out as they came out of that window.”

I contacted Butterfield Foods and the company’s attorney said that the Butterfield, Minnesota, plant does in fact have a backup killer position and that they are still investigating the video in an attempt to identify individuals pictured in the video.

Was the “undercover” activist who recorded the video supposed to be the backup killer at the time the video was shot? Was animal cruelty purposely perpetrated to create the shocking “optics” that the activist was looking to find? This video leaves me wondering just how far activists will go for the sake of promoting “animal welfare.”