CANADIAN turkey producer Hybrid Turkeys suspended four workers at the company's southwestern Ontario location after an undercover video — released by Mercy for Animals Canada — depicted the employees using non-approved euthanasia methods.
"Hybrid has zero tolerance for animal abuse," David Libertini, managing director of Hybrid Turkeys, said. "As soon as we reviewed the video, we suspended the four employees involved. We are conducting an independent, third-party investigation to review the incident as well as our company's animal welfare program, training and quality practices."
The seven-minute video showed the employees using blunt force to euthanize birds, which is a direct violation of Hybrid's animal welfare protocols.
Hybrid has established standard quality practices — based on scientific research, veterinary advice and ethical and practical knowledge gained through years of experience — for each step of production, including euthanasia.
In response to the video, the Turkey Farmers of Canada stated, "Respectful treatment and welfare of turkeys is a top priority for Turkey Farmers of Canada. The recent video footage of a turkey operation in Ontario is a concerning, yet isolated, incident."
Immediately following the release of the video, results of the multi-level audits and third-party inspections across the company found the incident to be isolated.
Accordingly, Hybrid announced last week that it will be the first turkey producer in North America to employ mandatory video monitoring and veterinary review of all turkey euthanasia.
"Euthanasia is not easy to do or watch at the best of times. Hybrid has just recently launched a new, easier-to-use tool plus training for this euthanasia method," said Dr. Helen Wojcinski, manager of science and sustainability for Hybrid Turkeys.
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) provides an animal care guideline that is reviewed by veterinarians and other animal care experts. Those guidelines serve as a foundation for turkey producers to establish proper procedures in caring for birds.
NTF commended Hybrid for its latest action to prevent the incident from recurring.
In a statement, NTF applauded Hybrid's "decision to incorporate proactive, forward-looking policies, reviewed and approved by leading veterinary experts, into its animal care program. These policies — particularly the requirement that all on-farm euthanasia be videotaped — demonstrate leadership and an understanding that turkey consumers throughout North America expect the highest standards of animal care in turkey production."
While NTF guidelines serve as a foundation for programs throughout the turkey industry, the organization noted that some members like Hybrid implement additional animal care policies on top of NTF's already stringent guidelines.
Furthermore, Hybrid also is initiating a cooperative research agreement on more effective and humane forms of euthanasia with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph in Ontario.