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2012-01-12

Butterball's egregious acts of animal cruelty

By Cheryl Hanna

(Editor's note: This report might make you rethink the purchase of your next thanksgiving or Christmas turkey.)

Pet Rescue Examiner

The morning of Thursday, Dec. 29, deputies with the Hoke County Sheriff's Office and other authorities raided a Butterball turkey facility in Hoke County, North Carolina. The original complaint of "repeated violations" of animal cruelty was sent to the Hoke County District Attorney's Office and ABC News.

Mercy for Animals, a national nonprofit organization that educates, researches, rescues and investigates cruelty to farm animals at meat, dairy, and egg industries, supplied actual footage of alleged animal cruelty. Their undercover investigations continue to educate consumers about horrible conditions and "acts of violence and severe neglect" many of the 9 billion animals confined and slaughtered annually have had to endure.

At the Butterball facility, the largest turkey producers in the United States, hidden camera video filmed by an undercover worker for three weeks, which ended in mid-December, revealed the "ongoing pattern of cruelty to the turkeys."

The video clearly depicts workers kicking, dragging turkeys by their wings and necks, and throwing them into cages. Injured birds with open sores and exposed flesh received no veterinarian care and were left to languish in severe pain.

The typical life of a factory farmed turkey begins in large incubators where the eggs are hatched. The birds are then sent to huge sheds where thousands of turkeys will live for the next four months as they are fattened up with hormones to make them as fat as possible. To keep the turkeys from fighting with each other, they are debeaked with hot blades that cut through cartilage and nerves.

Thirty years ago the average weight of a turkey was 17 pounds; today, with all the hormones and enriched feed, many turkeys exceed 28 pounds, but with the extra weight comes extra suffering. For many turkeys, their obesity causes their legs to snap while others die of heart and organ failure.

And when the turkeys are fat enough, they are tossed into crammed transport with no regard for the weather - extreme heat or cold and sent on to slaughterhouses where their throats are cut and are sent through scalding water to loosen their feathers. Often the throat slicing equipment misses, and the birds are sent through the rest of the slaughter process fully awake and aware.

With the release of the Butterball video Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, said, "Butterball is guilty of extreme animal abuse and should be held criminally accountable."

In North Carolina "malicious" animal cruelty is a felony.

Butterball has not yet responded, but ABC News is expecting a statement from the organization shortly.