Group claims more turkey abuse in North Carolina

November 14, 2012 10:13:00 AM PST
Mercy for Animals, the same group that released undercover video of alleged abuse at a Butterball plant in Hoke County late last year, claims it has found more abuse at Butterball plants in North Carolina.

The group made the claim at a news conference in Raleigh Tuesday morning.

It also posted what is said was new video of alleged abuse at the website www.Butterballabuse.com. The video appeared to show workers kicking birds and picking them up and throwing them by their wings. The video included pictures of birds that Mercy for Animals claimed were injured by rough treatment.

"Our  investigator documented workers violently throwing turkeys, kicking them, grabbing them by their necks, leaving them to suffer with open festering wounds, and broken bones without proper veterinary care," charged Nathan Runkle with Mercy for Animals.

Runkle said the alleged abuse occurred in Butterball facilities in Sampson, Duplin, Onslow and Lenoir counties over a period in October. He said his group turned its evidence over to local authorities for investigation.

In December 2011, Mercy for Animals published similar hidden camera video that it said was recorded at a Butterball Turkey facility near Shannon, N.C. The video showed workers appearing to kick and stomp turkeys.

Following an investigation, Hoke County deputies arrested several employees and charged them with animal cruelty.

After the 2011 case, Butterball said it was re-evaluating its animal care and started new initiatives. The company released the following statement Wednesday on the new allegations:

"Butterball is aware of the video released today by Mercy for Animals, and we take any allegations of animal mistreatment very seriously. As has been our long-standing policy, we have a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse. Any employee found to have violated our animal care and well-being guidelines, as well as any employee who witnessed abuse and failed to report it, will be terminated. Butterball's guidelines are based on guidelines developed by the National Turkey Federation that have been approved by animal well-being experts including Dr. Joy Mench at University of California at Davis, Dr. Janice Swanson from Michigan State University and Dr. Gail Golab at the American Veterinary Medical Association, among others.

"When we learn of any instances of animal mistreatment, we take immediate corrective action to suspend workers involved, conduct a swift investigation and terminate their employment with the company. Upon learning of these new concerns, we immediately initiated an internal investigation and suspended the associates in question. Pending the completion of that investigation, Butterball will then make a determination on additional actions including immediate termination for those involved.

"Animal care and well-being is central to the operations of our company, and we remain committed to the ethical and responsible care of our turkey flocks."

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