Butterball Abuse: Undercover Mercy For Animals Investigation Reveals Cruelty

Butterball has become synonymous with turkey. But how do the millions of turkeys who end up in the grocery store, or served at restaurants, under the Butterball brand, really live and die?

A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation reveals the truth: extreme cruelty and violence is the harsh reality for birds on Butterball’s factory farms.

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.

After viewing the undercover footage, Dr. Sara Shields, research scientist, poultry specialist and consultant in animal welfare, said, “Turkeys are fully capable of feeling pain, fear, stress and of suffering, and the way they are treated in the video is clearly abusive.”

Dr. Debra Teachout, a practicing veterinarian with experience in farmed-animal welfare, agrees, stating, “The birds are not living a life remotely worth living. Their world is full of fear, distress, pain, injury and illness as witnessed by this video. A culture of blatant and severe animal mistreatment has been allowed to flourish unchecked, and for that reason, this facility should be shut down immediately.”

Following the investigation, MFA immediately went to law enforcement with extensive video footage and a detailed legal complaint outlining the routine violence and cruelty documented by the investigator at this Butterball facility. On Thursday, December 29, state law enforcement officials obtained a warrant and raided the facility on grounds of cruelty to animals.

Unfortunately, the lives of turkeys in Butterball’s factory farms are short, brutal and filled with fear, violence and prolonged 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.

This genetic manipulation creates birds that are so large they cannot even reproduce naturally, meaning that artificial semen collection and insemination have become the sole means of turkey reproduction at Butterball facilities.

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 now agree that turkeys are sensitive and intelligent animals with their own unique personalities, much like the dogs and cats we all know and love.

While MFA works to expose and end animal abuse at Butterball and other giants of the meat, dairy and egg industry, consumers can help prevent the needless suffering of turkeys and other animals by adopting a compassionate vegan diet.

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