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Mercy For Animals finds turkey abuse at Butterball

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A case of Butterball turkeys.

46 million turkeys appear on holiday tables across American on Thanksgiving, but what happens to turkeys before they make it to your oven?

Turkey brand Butterball has been accused of neglect and abuse at their facilities by animal-rights group Mercy For Animals, who took part in undercover investigations at Butterball turkey facilities.

KPCC’s Patt Morrison spoke with Mercy For Animals’ Director of Investigations, Matt Rice, about the allegations against Butterball.

“We’ve actually done several undercover investigations at multiple butterball facilities, and documented workers kicking, throwing, dragging birds by their necks and wings, throwing them through the air, hitting them over the head with metal bars, clear violations of the law,” Rice said. “When we went to law enforcement with this information and a detailed legal complaint, they raided Butterball, arrested workers, charged them and convicted Butterball workers with criminal cruelty to animals.”

Matt Rice of Mercy For Animals also suggested finding turkey companies that humanely raise their animals, a map of which can be found at Certified Humane's website. They've also released a commercial that’s been played across the country, but does contain very graphic footage of the Butterball facilities.

In a statement, Butterball said:

Butterball is aware of the video released today by Mercy for Animals, and we take any allegations of animal mistreatment very seriously. As has been our long-standing policy, we have a zero tolerance policy for animal abuse. Any employee found to have violated our animal care and well-being guidelines, as well as any employee who witnessed abuse and failed to report it, will be terminated. Butterball’s guidelines are based on guidelines developed by the National Turkey Federation that have been approved by animal well-being experts including Dr. Joy Mench at University of California at Davis, Dr. Janice Swanson from Michigan State University and Dr. Gail Golab at the American Veterinary Medical Association, among others.

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

Animal care and well-being is central to the operations of our company, and we remain committed to the ethical and responsible care of our turkey flocks. 

In December 2011, officials raided a Butterball facility after Mercy For Animals found evidence of animal cruelty.

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