Butterball again accused of Thanksgiving turkey abuse

Animal welfare group Mercy For Animals is accusing Butterball of abusing its turkeys.
(Amy Sancetta / Associated Press)

This post has been updated.

A week before Thanksgiving, an animal advocacy group is accusing Butterball of abusing and neglecting turkeys at some of its facilities.

The activist group Mercy For Animals said an undercover investigation into several Butterball operations in North Carolina found evidence of cruelty and neglect. Hidden camera footage (warning: may be disturbing) shows turkeys being thrown and dragged by their wings and necks, kicked on the ground and with open sores.


Butterball did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Updated, 10:10 a.m.: In a statement, Butterball said it takes “any allegations of animal mistreatment very seriously” and emphasized that it has “a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse.”

“When we learn of any instances of animal mistreatment, we take immediate corrective action to suspend workers involved, conduct a swift investigation and terminate their employment with the company,” Butterball said in its statement.

“Upon learning of these new concerns, we immediately initiated an internal investigation and suspended the associates in question,” the company said. “Pending the completion of that investigation, Butterball will then make a determination on additional actions including immediate termination for those involved.”]

Last December, North Carolina officials raided a Butterball turkey facility after Mercy For Animals sent a similar video to authorities. Five Butterball employees were eventually slapped with felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

This time around, the animal welfare group again sent hidden video, which it says was shot in October, and a legal complaint to law enforcement, which the group said is now looking into the allegations.

Butterball is the country’s largest producer of turkey meat and is the source of 30% of the 46 million turkeys killed each year for Thanksgiving, according to Mercy For Animals.

Animal cruelty has been a hot-button topic this year for companies along the food supply chain.

This summer, In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King and other chains quickly cut ties with a California slaughterhouse after undercover video showed suffering animals.

Several bold-faced restaurant names have also pledged in recent months to wean themselves off pigs raised in cramped gestation crates and eggs laid by chickens crowded in cages.


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