Ag official back at work after suspension

Dr. Sarah Mason

February 27, 2012 2:11:59 PM PST
A top state agriculture official is back on the job after serving a two week suspension linked to the Butterball turkey farm raid.

Dr. Sarah Mason returned to work Monday after being suspended for two weeks without pay.

The animal rights group "Mercy for Animals" set off a raid at the plant in Hoke County after releasing video which they say shows widespread animal abuse.

Seven people have been arrested and charged, including Mason, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. She got a suspended 45-day jail sentence in exchange for her plea.

The probe began late last year when the group filed a complaint with the Hoke County District Attorney after it said one of its members went undercover and got a job at the facility to videotape conditions.

Mercy for Animals posted an edited clip of its video at the web site The video appears to show workers kicking and stomping turkeys. The video also shows injured birds with open wounds.

Hoke County authorities raided the Butterball plant on Dec. 28.

Deputies alleged Mason - a veterinarian at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - contacted a veterinarian at Butterball Turkey on Dec. 23 to share information she had received from a fellow employee about the Mercy for Animals video.

Mercy for Animals said Mason only got a slap on the wrist for tipping off the vet working for Butterball.

Hoke County authorities said it's hard to know what impact Mason's actions had on their investigation.

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