Lunchtime shoppers picking up groceries for the weekend at the Cameron Village Harris Teeter were in for not exactly a treat Friday afternoon, and they certainly would have thought twice before purchasing any Tyson Foods chicken products.

Mercy For Animals activists, accompanied by 7-foot-tall “Abby the Abused Chicken” born of a Hollywood special effects studio, held a demonstration outside of the store on Oberlin Road at noon to bring attention to recent abuses of birds at a Tyson farm.

Undercover video footage captured between March and May of this year shows chickens being clubbed to death, sick and injured birds being left to die without food or water, birds being shackled upside-down by their legs, having their throats sliced open while fully conscious and being scalded alive.

“Chickens raised and killed for Tyson foods are treated as mere meat-producing machines from the day they’re born until they’re violently killed,” said Jeni Haines, MFA’s national campaign coordinator. “This is sickening abuse that no company with morals should support.”

“While the issue is directly related to Tyson, and we believe any inquiries should be directed to the supplier, Harris Teeter takes animal welfare very seriously and we expect our suppliers to meet our high standards,” said Danna Robinson, communication manager for Harris Teeter.

As of this summer, whistleblowers recording similar workplace abuses could be subject to lawsuits from their employer in North Carolina, under House Bill 405, this state’s version of the ALEC-modeled ‘ag-gag’ law. Gov. McCrory vetoed the bill but the Legislature overrode his veto in June. Poultry is the number one agricultural industry in North Carolina, and the state is third nationally in poultry production, according to the North Carolina Poultry Federation.

Mercy for Animals says it is calling on Tyson to adopt “a meaningful animal welfare policy including on-farm improvements to reduce illness and injury among bird populations by switching to less cruel killing systems to eliminate needless cruelty.” More than 150,000 people have signed a petition asking Tyson to “stop torturing animals.”

Tyson, which has not responded to MFA’s evidence of animal abuse, has the following statement posted on its website:

Consumers deserve to know their food is produced responsibly, using established best practices for animal handling. At Tyson Foods, we take that responsibility very seriously. As a company, one of our Core Values is to serve as stewards of the animals that we depend on to operate. For us, proper animal handling is an important moral and ethical obligation. In 2000, Tyson Foods became one of the first companies in the meat industry to create an Office of Animal Well-Being, which is primarily focused on the proper treatment of live animals at our processing plants. In 2012, this effort was expanded with the development and introduction of the Tyson FarmCheck™ program, which involves animal well-being audits of the farms that supply the company. It also includes an Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program, and an internal management team led by the Vice President of Animal Well-Being Programs.

Mercy For Animals will hold demonstrations at Tyson suppliers in multiple cities to bring attention to the animal abuses it uncovered.