Five employees have been charged with animal abuse.
Hidden-camera video shot at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm by animal protection group Mercy For Animals (MFA) has led to the prosecution of five workers at the facility.
Between November and December of last year, an MFA undercover investigator documented a pattern of abuse and neglect at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, North Carolina.
Butterball employee Brian Douglas pleaded guilty to felonious cruelty to animals. Douglas, along with several other Butterball employees, was documented violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars.
Douglas will serve a sentence of 30 days imprisonment, followed by 6 months intensive probation and 36 months of supervised probation. Douglas was also ordered to pay $550 in fees and fines, and provide a DNA sample to the state, and will be subject to warrant-less searches. Four other Butterball employees have pending cases after also being charged with cruelty to animals.
The undercover footage reveals:
- Workers violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or into transport trucks in full view of company management;
- Employees bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars, leaving many to slowly suffer and die from their injuries;
- Turkeys covered in flies, living in their own waste, unable to access food or water and suffering from severe feather loss and necrotic (dead) muscles and skin;
- Birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, rotting eyes, and broken bones; and
- Severely injured turkeys, unable to stand up or walk, left to die without any veterinary care, because treating sick or injured birds was too costly and time-consuming, as the farm manager explained to MFA's investigator.
Mercy For Animals' undercover video shows violent and neglectful treatment of the birds. Butterball's turkeys have been selectively bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many of them suffer from painful bone defects, hip joint lesions, crippling foot and leg deformities, and fatal heart attacks.
"Butterball allowed a culture of cruelty and abuse to fester at its company-owned factory farms. This case graphically illustrates that the secret ingredient in Butterball turkey is criminal animal abuse," said MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle. "Before ending up in restaurants and grocery stores, turkeys killed for Butterball are routinely crowded into filthy warehouses, neglected to die from infected, bloody wounds, and thrown, kicked, and beaten by factory farm workers."