Deputies raid North Carolina turkey farm

Officials investigate at a Hoke Co. turkey farm (Chopper 11 HD)
December 29, 2011 2:37:43 PM PST
Deputies with the Hoke County Sheriff's Office were joined by state officials Thursday morning in a raid at a Butterball turkey facility in Shannon, NC.

The investigation began after a complaint was filed with the Hoke County District Attorney by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals.

The complaint, obtained by ABC News, says an activist with the group worked undercover at the facility for three weeks and captured hidden camera video of Butterball employees intentionally committing "acts of violence and severe neglect."

The video appears to show workers kicking and stomping turkeys. The video also shows injured birds with open wounds.

Mercy for Animals posted an edited clip of its video at the web site www.butterballabuse.com.

"This is blatant animal abuse, and this company should be held criminally accountable for it," said MFA’s Executive Director Nathan Runkle in an interview Thursday with ABC11. "These animals feel pain and suffering and fear and distress and neglect in the same way that our dogs and cats do. And as a civilized society, it’s our obligation to protect these animals from needless cruelty and suffering."

In a statement to ABC11, Butterball said it has"a zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our birds or the failure to immediately report mistreatment of our birds by any associates."

"We are currently working with Hoke County government officials regarding allegations of animal cruelty at a farm in North Carolina. Butterball takes these allegations very seriously and fully supports the efforts being made on the part of officials," it said.

But Mercy for Animals told ABC11 it believes animal cruelty was not limited to just the one Butterball facility.

"This facility was selected completely at random. Which leads us to believe that animal abuse and exploitation and cruelty is widespread at Butterball," said Runkle.

Butterball says it is committed to making sure its birds are treated in a human manner and employees found in violation of its animal welfare policies face immediate termination.

"All associates are trained as to proper handling and care of the birds and have signed a statement saying that they will report any abuse observed; failure to report abuse is in violation of company policy," said Butterball.

The company says its animal welfare programs are audited annually and it has "six veterinarians on staff who continuously work to assure the health and well being of the birds."

Headquartered in Garner, Butterball says it produces 1 billion pounds of turkey each year, and sells its products to more than 50 countries.

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