Just a week ahead of Thanksgiving, Mercy For Animals (MFA) has released undercover video from "multiple Butterball farms" that MFA said shows workers engaged in abusive animal handling, dragging turkeys by their necks and wings, kicking and stomping on turkeys and "maliciously" throwing them on the ground and on top of other birds.
The video contains images like those of a previous undercover video at a Butterball farm near Shannon, N.C., that MFA released earlier this year showing workers engaged in similar animal handling (Feedstuffs, Jan. 9). That video led to criminal charges against and guilty pleas from workers who were identified in the film.
Butterball LLC is the largest turkey producer in the U.S.
The MFA news release, issued Nov. 14, quoted North Carolina State University veterinarian Dr. Greg Burkett as saying "the abuses" shown in the video are "identical" to those in the previous video, and he said the workers' behaviors "are cruel, inhumane and injurious to the birds."
He said he was "appalled at the disrespect these workers have toward other living creatures."
At the time of the previous video, Butterball trumpeted its animal welfare program, insisting that animal health and well-being is its "number-one priority" and that it has "zero tolerance" for mistreatment of turkeys.
In a statement following the latest video's release, the company reaffirmed that position, noting that its animal welfare program is based on standards that were developed by the National Turkey Federation in consultation with animal welfare experts Dr. Joy Mench at the University of California at Davis, Dr. Janice Swanson at Michigan State University and Dr. Gail Golab at the American Veterinary Medical Assn.
The company reported that it already has initiated an internal investigation and, after completing this investigation, will determine actions that should be taken, including termination of employees involved, both those who are found to have abused animals and those who witnessed abuse and failed to report it.
Animal care and well-being "are central to the operations of our company, and we remain committed to the ethical and responsible care of our turkey flocks," Butterball said in its statement.
MFA executive director Nathan Runkle said Butterball subjects turkeys "to horrific cruelty and violence" and the company should be held criminally liable for the actions of its workers.
The video, which contains disturbing scenes, can be viewed at www.ButterballAbuse.com. A narrator states that the video was filmed on Butterball farms in North Carolina and ends the video by urging viewers to "avoid animal abuse by choosing a vegetarian diet."
MFA, headquartered in Los Angeles, Cal., advocates vegetarianism.
Butterball, headquartered in Garner, N.C., is a 50/50 joint venture between Maxwell Farms LLC and Seaboard Corp.