Ag Gag Bill Introduced as Butterball Worker is Convicted of Cruelty
Undercover video taken by Mercy for Animals (MFA) exposed horrific acts of cruelty on numerous occasions at five Butterball turkey farms in North Carolina, most recently before Thanksgiving.
As MFA describes it, their “undercover investigation revealed workers violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or into transport trucks in full view of company management. Workers were also caught on hidden camera bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars, leaving many to slowly suffer and die from their injuries. Video footage shows Butterball turkeys covered in flies and living in their own waste, and severely injured turkeys, unable to stand up or walk, left to die without proper veterinary care.”
MFA compiled the information and turned it over to law enforcement officials who got a warrant and proceeded with a raid on the grounds of animal cruelty.
The footage they released resulted in the first ever felony conviction for cruelty to birds used in agriculture, with one worker getting 30 days in jail and a $550 fine. Dr. Sarah Jean Mason, the director of Animal Health Programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture also pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges for tipping Butterball off about the raid and compromising a criminal investigation.
Last week a fifth employee was convicted of cruelty to animals, which was ironically, on the same day the state introduced a bill to silence those who expose this type of cruelty. Even scarier is the fact that North Carolina’s legislation (SB 648) doesn’t just apply to animal agriculture, but to all industries …if anything can be scarier than a state responding to cruelty and corruption by trying to cover it up.
North Carolina’s bill will make it illegal for people to make false representations to gain employment for the purpose of taking and/or recording images or sound or removing data or documents. It also includes a 24 hour reporting requirement.
Unfortunately, North Carolina is only one of a number of other states that are attempting to pass legislation that will silence whistleblowers.
North Dakota, Kansas and Montana passed laws in the early 1990s that make it a misdemeanor to enter facilities that are closed to the public or to take photographs and audio/video recordings. Last year Missouri, Utah and Iowa passed ag gag bills, while similar efforts failed elsewhere, most recently in New Mexico and New Hampshire.
Animal advocacy groups are concerned about not only the ag gag bills themselves, but the new requirements being added to some of them that will require evidence to be turned over within periods ranging from 24 to 48 hours.
Matt Dominguez, a farm animal advocate with the Humane Society of the United States told the New York Times that undercover workers won’t be able to document patterns of abuse, gather enough evidence to force an investigation or figure out whether or not abuse is being condoned by managers in one or two days.
These investigations have led to changes in laws, convictions for cruelty and have opened the public’s eyes to what we might not otherwise know about. Without them our ability to make informed decisions or generate a dialogue about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to animal agriculture is stripped away.
Wyoming recently tabled its ag gag bill because of public outcry following a letter from Bob Barker. Please help kill the rest of these bills by contacting your legislators and letting them know this type of legislation is completely unacceptable.
Photo credit: Thinkstock