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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:
These abuses are virtually identical to the acts of extreme cruelty and violence documented by MFA at a Butterball turkey factory farm in 2011.
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.
This year, give the turkeys a reason to be thankful by carving out a new Thanksgiving tradition and digging in to any number of delicious vegetarian, turkey-free alternatives.