Update on the Torture and Killing of a Turkey by Members of The University of Kansas Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, December 14, 2012
BETA THETA PI – MEN OF PRINCIPLE
In the last issue of Poultry Press, Vol. 22, No. 4 (www.upc-online.org/pp/spring2013/), we reported the brutal torture and killing
of a turkey rented for a drinking party by members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at The University of Kansas on December 14, 2012. The turkey was
described by Grand Marquis band leader Lisa McKenzie, who called the police, as a female bird weighing about 15 pounds.
Fraternity “men” kicked in the turkey’s cage and proceeded to chase her, throw her like a football, carry her upside down by her feet,
squeeze her throat, and choke her by the neck. In the process of being attacked, the turkey’s wing snapped, then her leg snapped, and she began
screaming, according to The Kansas City Star on Dec. 17, 2012 citing eyewitness accounts. The band’s trumpet player watched as a fraternity
member violently shook the injured, suffering turkey by the neck until she died on the front porch of the fraternity house.
As we go to press, the Lawrence, Kansas Police Department has completed its criminal investigation and forwarded its report to the Douglas County District
Attorney. According to the Office of District Attorney Charles Branson, the filing of criminal charges under Kansas Cruelty to Animals Statute 21-4310,
which makes it a crime to “Intentionally kill, injure, maim, torture or mutilate any [vertebrate] animal,” is currently awaiting “a
Photo by Gay Bradshaw of turkey visitors at her home in
Jacksonville, Oregon, right after a spring rain, April 2013.
Meanwhile, University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little wrote to United Poultry Concerns on March 8, 2013: “I share your feeling that this
incident is reprehensible and not what KU expects of its students.” However, she did not indicate what if any steps the University is taking to
punish the students and prevent such episodes in the future.
On February 27, 2013, Justin Warren, Director of Beta Theta Pi Chapter Operations for the Beta Theta Pi Foundation & Administrative Office in Ohio,
wrote to United Poultry Concerns President Karen Davis as follows:
At this time, I am happy to provide you an update from the perspective of the General Fraternity on some of the things that have happened since
the chapter’s activities were suspended in December. As you will see below, the internal investigation is complete and the chapter is in the process
of holding members accountable for their direct actions in releasing the turkey from his cage that evening. The chapter is still working with authorities
on whether or not legal ramifications will result from the event for any individuals. Therefore, there could be further developments if any further issues
The internal investigation being conducted by a private investigator (in no way connected to the DA’s office) has recently been completed. Until we
receive final word on sanctions given to individual members, the chapter has been placed under “Suspension” with limited privileges to operate
as a chapter on KU’s campus. Judicial guidelines have been put in place that anyone who is found guilty of animal abuse by a court of law will be
expelled from the fraternity. Any non-criminal wrongdoing may still result in punishment up-to and including expulsion.
There will be no live animals permitted at any future chapter events. In addition, Beta Theta Pi’s Board of Trustees is discussing the rewording of a
statement currently in our risk management policy that prohibits chapter pets to include the prohibition of any live animal, regardless of campus
The men will host a chapter-wide service project or fund-raiser with all proceeds going to a charitable society benefitting an animal related organization.
An animal rights/abuse speaker will be invited to the house for dinner and asked to execute a presentation with all chapter members.
More broadly, the men have made adjustments in their operations to reduce the chances that acts like this will occur again due to alcohol and have
committed to increase member attendance at leadership development programs in hopes to avoid any instances of bystander apathy in the future. The chapter
recognized the need for a number of these directives on their own and have worked very cooperatively with the General Fraternity to make these changes.
First, we take this opportunity to thank our members for your outpouring of letters to the District Attorney, KU Chancellor, and Beta Theta Pi on behalf of
the turkey who suffered and died helplessly at the hands of this fraternity on December 14, 2012. Please keep up the pressure!
Urge Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson to prosecute the turkey abusers to the fullest extent of the law under the Kansas Cruelty to Animals
Statute, which makes it a crime to intentionally torture an animal. Demand justice for the turkey and punishment of these criminals.
Urge Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to enforce strict policies prohibiting and penalizing animal cruelty at The University of Kansas. Merely
“sharing our feelings” is not enough. Tell Chancellor Gray-Little you want to know exactly what steps the University is taking.
Thank Justin Warren for the specific steps he says Beta Theta Pi is taking to prevent future animal abuse by Beta Theta Pi members, including avoidance of
“instances of bystander apathy in the future.” Please emphasize that while you are encouraged by Beta Theta Pi’s actions thus far, the
issue of animal abuse should not be treated primarily as a problem of alcohol-fueled savagery. The fundamental issue is the fraternity’s character,
policies, and attitude toward living creatures. This is the problem the Beta Theta Pi leadership must confront and correct through its ethical policies and
District Attorney Charles Branson
Douglas County DA’s Office
111 East 11th St, First Level
Lawrence KS 66044
Justin Warren, Director of Chapter Operations
Beta Theta Pi Foundation and Administrative Office
5134 Bonham Road, PO Box 6277
Oxford, OH 45056
Phone: 1-800-800-7591 (Justin Warren ext. 264)
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
The University of Kansas
230 Strong Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045-7518