A new undercover investigation conducted by Mercy for Animals (MFA) has brought Butterball, the nation’s largest turkey producer, back into the spotlight for cruelty it inflicts on newborn turkeys.
Using a hidden-camera, an investigator recorded the treatment of baby turkeys at a Butterball hatchery in Raeford, N.C. Unlike previous Butterball investigations, this one didn’t so much expose blatant mistreatment of turkeys as it did the heartbreaking experience for them that’s become standard at hatcheries.
Baby turkeys can be seen being carelessly handled, thrown and dropped, stuck and injured in machinery and thoughtlessly tossed into a macerator where they’ll be ground up alive, in addition to having their toes and beaks cut and burned off without painkillers.
According to MFA, this is the reality for more than 300,000 newborn turkeys every week, who are welcomed into a world of metal and machines, instead of breaking out of their eggs to be met by the warmth and protection of their mothers.
Even if they survive the hatchery, they’ll only see more misery after being packed up and shipped off to Butterball farms where they’ll grow too fast for their own bodies to support, which will cause chronic health issues, in addition to the trouble they’ll have eating, preening and walking after being mutilated. They will never be able to engage in natural behaviors or show off their individual personalities.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time cruelty at Butterball has been exposed by MFA. Undercover investigations in 2011 and 2012 showed violent handling and sickening abuse of birds. The investigation in 2011 resulted in a raid that led to animal cruelty charges and convictions, including the first-ever felony cruelty conviction involving birds used in food production, and the ousting of a top official from the state’s Department of Agriculture over obstruction of justice charges.
MFA has turned over the latest evidence to law enforcement, but Butterball has issued a statement in the meantime in an attempt to assure consumers that it has a “zero-tolerance policy” on animal cruelty. The company added that experts it consulted agree they didn’t observe any mistreatment, but the fact that this system and handling of live animals in such a careless way is considered normal, or perceived that way by some, is the problem.
To make matters worse, North Carolina is currently considering an ag gag bill (SB 648), otherwise known as the Commerce Protection Act, that many believe was introduced in response to previous Butterball investigations. Instead of holding companies accountable, lawmakers are again trying to shield them from public scrutiny and consequences of their actions.
The bill would ban taking photos at a place of employment, make it a crime for anyone to make false statements on a job application and add a 24 hour reporting requirement, which would hinder investigators’ ability to prove patterns of abuse over time. This time, lawmakers are claiming it’s not an ag gag law because it doesn’t specifically target agricultural operations, but the fact that it includes all industries only makes it even more dangerous.
“This investigation graphically illustrates that a culture of cruelty and abuse continues to run rampant at Butterball facilities,” said MFA’s executive director, Nathan Runkle. “Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening the state’s animal protection laws and cracking down on repeat offenders like Butterball, not making animal abuse harder to expose. Consumers who buy Butterball turkey are supporting a company that beats, throws, and mutilates animals, and grinds them up while still alive. In a civilized society, this cruelty shouldn’t be supported or tolerated.”
Please sign and share the petition asking North Carolina lawmakers not to support any form of whistleblower suppression legislation.
For more info, visit ButterballAbuse.com.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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