A video released by an animal rights group Tuesday purports to show horrific abuse of turkeys at West Virginia farms operated by major global poultry grower Aviagen Inc.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the video, which includes workers stamping on turkeys' heads and twisting their necks to kill them, was shot by an undercover investigator who worked on the companies' farms for more than two months.
The undercover worker, who was not identified, described stifling, dusty barns where the animals were kept and caught video of several workers killing turkeys, slamming them into metal cages and bragging about previous abuse of the animals.
Aviagen officials told the New York Times they "condemn the abuse of any of the animals in our care and will take swift action to address these issues." The officials said the company would investigate the allegations, which could lead to the firing of employees involved.
A telephone message left Wednesday at the Alabama headquarters of Aviagen North America was not immediately answered. A call to subsidiary Aviagen Turkeys Inc. in Lewisburg also was not immediately returned.
PETA filed a criminal complaint Tuesday alleging animal cruelty, according to the Greenbrier County Sheriff's Department.
In West Virginia, felony animal cruelty can be punished by one to three years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Norfolk, Va.-based PETA campaigns most years against the practices of turkey growers before Thanksgiving and encourages Americans to find vegetarian substitutes for the bird, such as tofu. The video showing the turkey abuse was posted on PETA's website.
In 2004, PETA carried out a similar undercover video sting in West Virginia against Texas-based Pilgrim's Pride at the company's Moorefield plant.
The company fired 11 employees and provided animal cruelty training throughout its North American operations after that, but a Hardy County grand jury in 2005 declined to indict any of the workers involved.