"Shocking Abuse": Butterball Accused of Kicking, Stomping Turkeys

An undercover video sting at a plant in North Carolina turned up allegations of abuse

By Jason Kandel
|  Wednesday, Nov 14, 2012  |  Updated 6:59 PM EDT
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Turkeys being fattened up for the Thanksgiving table were routinely kicked and stomped at a Butterball plant in North Carolina, according to a Los Angeles animal rights group.

The animal activist group, Mercy For Animals, said that it had documented a “pattern of shocking abuse and neglect at numerous Butterball turkey operations in North Carolina.”

It released hidden-camera video (warning: the video is graphic) on Wednesday of its undercover sting into a Butterball turkey facility showing five workers allegedly being cruel to turkeys.

“Animal abuse continues to run rampant at Butterball factory farms,” the group said in a press release on its website.

The group said it has documented workers kicking and stomping birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, and throwing the birds onto the ground or on top of other birds.

It said that birds suffered from untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, and broken bones. The group also said workers grabbed birds by their wings or necks and slammed them into transport crates.

The allegations mirror abuses documented by the group at a Butterball turkey farm in 2011, allegations that the group said led to arrests of several employees.

Butterball said in a statement that it takes such allegations seriously and has a “zero-tolerance” policy against animal abuse.

"Upon learning of these new concerns, we immediately initiated an internal investigation and suspended the associates in question," the company said. "Pending the completion of that investigation, Butterball will then make a determination on additional actions including immediate termination for those involved."

Butterball is the largest turkey producer in the United States, accounting for 20 percent of total turkey production in the country. Its 675,000 square foot plant in Mt. Olive, N.C., is the world’s largest turkey plant, according to the Butterball website.

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