NC's top poultry vet regrets warning Butterball

Posted January 18, 2012

— The state Agriculture Department's top poultry vet says she "deeply regrets" tipping off turkey producer Butterball that one of its operations in Hoke County was being investigated for animal cruelty.

The operation in Shannon was raided Dec. 28 after an undercover investigator for an animal rights group videotaped workers abusing turkeys and leaving injured birds untended. Some turkeys found by investigators for the Hoke County Sheriff's Department had to be euthanized. 

Six days before the raid, Hoke investigators contacted the Department of Agriculture for advice about the raid. Hours later, Dr. Sarah Mason contacted Dr. Eric Gonder, a veterinarian for Butterball, to relay the information.

According to a search warrant released last week, Mason first denied contacting Gonder, but admitted it after investigators told her Gonder had already identified her as the contact.  

In a statement issued by her attorney, Mason said Gonder is a longtime friend.  She said she called him because she wanted to stop the abuse immediately. 

"I recognize the seriousness of my actions and do not want my actions to negatively influence the public's perception of my colleagues at the Department," Mason said.  

Mason also said no one at the Department of Agriculture had asked her to make the call, and that no one else there was aware of her actions. 

Critics of the Department have accused it of being too friendly with the businesses it regulates.  

No charges have been filed. An investigation is underway, both by law enforcement officials and within the Department.  

Butterball issued a statement saying it is fully cooperating with the investigation into the leak, adding that "The Hoke County incident is a regrettable and unfortunate event and does not in any way reflect the policies, intentions or beliefs of Butterball or its associates." 


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  • xtruthteller Jan 19, 2012

    I will tell you that this lady conspired to cover up a crime, interfered with a criminal investigation, and then lied about it when confronted only admitting to it when the evidence incriminated her. Why is she being protected? If it were someone else, they'd probably be in jail, but definitely would be fired and fined. It's disgusting way selective justice works! That agency is foolish to keep her and sully their name. This is national news and not some podunk local story. Her name should be mud in the veterinarian community!

  • storchheim Jan 18, 2012

    ".."animal rights activist..."

    LOL..the so called news media has used this erroneous term so long that people actually BELIEVE it....!!!!" - SmokeWagon

    You forgot to call us sheeple.

  • cheezchicken Jan 18, 2012

    Mountain or molehill?

    I've decided.

  • LovemyPirates Jan 18, 2012

    Open mouth, insert turkey leg. What a lame excuse. Why isn't Troxler taking responsibility? Doesn't the buck stop with him?

  • dollibug Jan 18, 2012

    +++++She should be fired. She has her intrest in big business (or personal gain from big business) and not the people.

    IF everyone was FIRED for what they SHOULD be doing in their place of one would have a JOB....CORRUPTION AND COVER UP is everywhere....this is probably just the tip of the ICEBERG....

  • Come On_Seriously Jan 18, 2012

    Any intelligent person (and veterinarians undoubtedly are) would come to the logical conclusion that with knowledge of an impending raid, they could A) tip off the plant and make conditions better until the raid, or B) allow the law to be enforced and ensure conditions are better in the long term.

    She chose short-term to help her pals, not the abused.

  • andy2 Jan 18, 2012

    Sherlock - Mularky!

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Jan 18, 2012

    I can understand the ag officialS thinking....that tipping off the TF would stop the abuse immediately. That makes sense and I'm sure she had only good intetions - the welfare of the animals. But in my opinion, she was wrong to tip them off. So, she did good, but she did wrong too.

    I love turkey and have always bought Butterball, and will continue to do so.


  • raydoncasbai14 Jan 18, 2012

    She should be fired. She has her intrest in big business (or personal gain from big business) and not the people.

  • Sherlock Jan 18, 2012

    It was a better thing to notify the vet at the plant to stop the action. Just because the sheriff wants to get good press for his election by doing a raid. That is what the peole at PETA wanted the great press and not worry about the birds.. Great job doc it shows that you care.