United Poultry Concerns
1 July 2009
Turkey Abusers Convicted of Cruelty in Landmark Case
“The scenes show stomach-turning brutality.” - The New York Times

A 2008 undercover investigation at the Aviagen Turkey breeding facility, in Lewisburg, West Virginia (USA), resulted in 19 grand jury indictments, including 11 felony charges, against three former Aviagen workers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which conducted the investigation and fought successfully for criminal conviction of two of the employees thus far (a third case is pending), says this is “the first time in U.S. history that factory-farm employees faced felony cruelty-to-animals charges for abusing birds.”

In The New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. wrote, in “Group Documents Cruelty to Turkeys,” November 19, 2008, after watching PETA’s just released videotape (http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/turkey_investigation): “The scenes show stomach-turning brutality. Workers are seen smashing birds into loading cages like basketballs, stomping heads and breaking necks, apparently for fun, even pretending to rape one. On the tape, one worker describes losing his temper at a tom who pecked him, marking its head with a pen so he could find it again, fetching a broomstick, ramming it down the bird’s gullet and holding [the bird] up in the air while shouting ‘Let this be a lesson to y’all’ at the rest of the flock.”

Confronted with this worker’s behavior, the supervisor said only two of his crew “really like to do it. . . . As long as they don’t do it a lot, I don’t really say too much about it.”

Actually, turkey (and chicken) industry workers do “do it” a lot. For example, in 2006, PETA documented workers torturing turkeys at a Butterball slaughterhouse in Ozark, Arkansas: punching, stomping, and slamming turkeys against walls, raping female turkeys with their fingers, and joking about how “If you jump on their stomachs right . . . their insides will come out of their [rectums].”

In 2007, Mercy For Animals documented workers at House of Raeford Farms, in Raeford, North Carolina (www.mercyforanimals.org/HOR/), ripping the heads off live turkeys, punching shackled turkeys for fun, shoving their hands into the cloacae (vaginal cavities) of live chickens, crushing birds to death under truck wheels, and so on.

And it isn’t just in the U.S. that turkey workers do these things For example, in 2006 and 2007, workers at the U.K. turkey company, Bernard Matthews, were filmed using turkeys as baseballs, hitting them with poles, and repeatedly kicking them (see pp. 157-158 in Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, “Slaughter Culture: Submerged in a World of Misery”).

This kind of wanton cruelty should be documented, exposed, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But it will not stop, and even if it did, the treatment of turkeys raised for food would remain completely inhumane. To learn more about turkeys and how you can help them, please visit our Website section on Turkeys at www.upc-online.org/turkeys/.

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