This Is Why We Need To Boycott Butterball Turkeys This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Do you know what you’re serving? After watching this undercover video, hopefully it’s not a Butterball turkey.

Thanks to a recent investigation by Mercy for Animals (MFA), workers at Butterball factory farms in North Carolina were caught severely abusing and injuring their turkeys. Documented by an undercover employee, shocking and horrifying cases of animal abuse included:

– workers kicking and stomping on birds

– birds being dragged by their delicate wings and necks

– workers callously and violently throwing turkeys around

– turkeys so severely injured that they showed visible signs of open sores, infections, and broken bones

What’s even more disturbing here is that this is the exact same type of abuse that Butterball was caught doing during a previous investigation in 2011. It’s horrifying to think that people can treat other living beings so cruelly with no regard for their welfare, health pain or happiness. No animal deserves that. And yet, Americans keep buying them by the millions–46 million in fact will die just so they can sit on our Thanksgiving table this year.

Between November and December of 2011, an MFA undercover investigator documented a pattern of shocking abuse and neglect at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, North Carolina.

Hidden-camera footage taken at Butterball 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, with some unable to access food or water and suffering from severe feather loss

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.

Less than a year after a Mercy For Animals undercover investigation into a Butterball turkey facility led to five workers being charged with criminal cruelty to animals, a new investigation shows that animal abuse continues to run rampant at Butterball factory farms.

In October of 2012, an MFA investigator documented a pattern of shocking abuse and neglect at numerous Butterball turkey operations in North Carolina, including:

workers kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or on top of other birds;

birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, and broken bones; and

workers grabbing birds by their wings or necks and violently slamming them into tiny transport crates with no regard for their welfare.

Dr. Greg Burkett, poultry welfare scientist and adjunct professor of avian medicine and surgery at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, lent his expert review to MFA’s hidden-camera footage. Dr. Burkett, who also accompanied Hoke County law enforcement officials during a raid at a Butterball turkey factory farm last year, stated of the video:

“The abuses shown in this video are identical to the abuses documented in last year’s Butterball investigation which led to criminal cruelty to animals charges and convictions. These behaviors are cruel, inhumane, and injurious to the birds. I am appalled at the disrespect these workers have toward the lives of other living creatures.”

Dr. Sara Shields, a research scientist, poultry specialist, and consultant in animal welfare, said that this new investigation is “especially concerning” and that “under no circumstances is it acceptable to use violent force to move animals.”

Following the investigation, MFA immediately went to law enforcement with extensive video footage and a detailed legal complaint outlining the culture of cruelty at Butterball. Law enforcement is investigating.

Unfortunately, the lives of turkeys in Butterball’s factory farms are short, brutal, and filled with fear, violence, and constant suffering. While wild turkeys are sleek, agile, and able to fly, 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.

Even though domestic turkeys have been genetically manipulated for enormous growth, these birds still retain their gentle, inquisitive, and social natures. Oregon State University poultry scientist Dr. Tom Savage says that turkeys are “smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings.”

In fact, animal behaviorists, veterinarians, and scientists agree that turkeys are sensitive and intelligent animals with their own unique personalities, much like the dogs and cats we all know and love.

As the world’s largest producer of turkey meat, Butterball is responsible for 20 percent of the 252 million turkeys raised and killed for food each year in the United States, and 30 percent of the 46 million turkeys who are killed for Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, each of us can help prevent the needless suffering of turkeys at the hands of Butterball by making informed choices.

Update 9-1-2012: MFA’s undercover investigation into a Butterball turkey factory farm has led to felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against five Butterball employees by state authorities. Additionally, Dr. Sarah Jean Mason, the director of Animal Health Programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, has pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges after admitting to leaking confidential information to Butterball and potentially compromising the criminal cruelty investigation by state law enforcement officials.

On August 28, 2012, Butterball worker Brian Douglas pled guilty to felonious cruelty to animals—a class H felony in North Carolina. This is believed to be the first-ever felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history. A few days later, Ruben Mendoza pled guilty to misdemeanor cruelty to animals. Cases against the other three Butterball workers are still pending.