A hidden-camera video so graphic it prompted North Carolina officials to raid a Butterball turkey farm Thursday is the latest undercover effort by the vegan/animal rights group Mercy for Animals to expose what it sees as extreme cruelty toward food animals.
After viewing the video, the Hoke County Sheriff’s Department obtained a warrant to search Butterball’s turkey semen collection factory in Shannon, N.C., according to Mercy For Animals. The video can be seen here.
The activist group said the footage was shot by a colleague who worked undercover at the farm in November and December, then forwarded to the law enforcement officials who have jurisdiction in Shannon, NC, where a Butterball turkey semen collection farm is located.
The video shows turkeys being kicked and tossed about, and includes close ups of some with severe feather loss, open sores, broken bones, mangled feet and gouged-out eyes. The video also reveals turkeys covered with flies, flailing about in their own waste.
Butterball said in a statement Thursday that it is working with county officials to address Mercy For Animals’ allegations.
“Butterball has a zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our birds or the failure to immediately report mistreatment of our birds by any associates,” the statement said. “We are performing extensive internal and third-party audits as part of our own investigation. Employees found in violation of Butterball’s animal welfare policies will be subject to immediate termination.”
Last month, Mercy For Animals went after Sparboe Farms with undercover video of poor chicken treatment, causing McDonald’s and Target to stop buying eggs from the nation’s largest fast-food chain supplier.
What’s the food-safety angle here? Studies have shown that the prevalence of Salmonella is greater in poultry operations where there is overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and rough handling, and that stressed animals shed more pathogens. Filth presents opportunities for pathogens to spread, and stress weakens immune systems, increasing pathogen levels in birds’ guts.