Breaking News: Butterball Worker Pleads Guilty to Felony Cruelty to Animals

ButterballGuiltyBlog.jpgHidden-camera video secretly shot at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm by an undercover investigator with Mercy For Animals has led to a criminal prosecution of a worker at the facility. Earlier today, Brian Douglas pled guilty to felonious cruelty to animals--a class H felony in North Carolina. Douglas, along with several other Butterball employees, was documented violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars.

Douglas will serve a sentence of 30 days imprisonment, followed by 6 months intensive probation and 36 months of supervised probation. Douglas was also ordered to pay $550 in fees and fines, and provide a DNA sample to the state, and will be subject to warrantless searches. Four other Butterball employees were also charged with cruelty to animals. Their cases are still pending.

The conviction and additional charges stem from an MFA undercover investigation at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, North Carolina, between November and December of 2011. The shocking undercover footage reveals:

  • 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;
  • Employees bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars, leaving many to slowly suffer and die from their injuries;
  • Turkeys covered in flies, living in their own waste, unable to access food or water and suffering from severe feather loss and necrotic (dead) muscles and skin;
  • Birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, rotting eyes, and broken bones; and
  • Severely injured turkeys, unable to stand up or walk, left to die without any veterinary care, because treating sick or injured birds was too costly and time-consuming, as the farm manager explained to MFA's investigator.

Mercy For Animals' undercover video shows that the lives of turkeys in Butterball's factory farms are brutal and filled with fear, violence and prolonged suffering. Butterball's turkeys have been selectively bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many of them suffer from painful bone defects, hip joint lesions, crippling foot and leg deformities, and fatal heart attacks. Due to the company's lack of meaningful animal welfare policies, training or procedures, Butterball subjects countless turkeys to immeasurable cruelty and neglect each year.

"Butterball allowed a culture of cruelty and abuse to fester at its company-owned factory farms. This case graphically illustrates that the secret ingredient in Butterball turkey is criminal animal abuse," said MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle. "Before ending up in restaurants and grocery stores, turkeys killed for Butterball are routinely crowded into filthy warehouses, neglected to die from infected, bloody wounds, and thrown, kicked, and beaten by factory farm workers."

The best thing consumers can do to reject cruelty to farmed animals is to ditch Butterball turkey, and all animal products, by adopting a healthy and compassionate vegan diet.