Business

Ag commissioner supports vet accused of tipping off Butterball

Posted January 19, 2012

—  State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler showed support Thursday for the state's top poultry veterinarian, who has been accused of tipping off officials at the turkey producer Butterball last month before a raid on one of its operations in Hoke County.

Six days before the Dec. 29 raid, Hoke County investigators contacted the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for advice about how to proceed. Hours later, Dr. Sarah Mason contacted Dr. Eric Gonder, a veterinarian for Butterball, to relay the information. An undercover investigator for an animal rights group videotaped workers abusing turkeys at the Shannon plant and leaving injured birds untended. Some turkeys found by investigators for the Hoke County Sheriff's Department had to be euthanized.

Troxler said Thursday that Mason didn't intend to tip off Butterball.

"She says she was making that decision thinking she was actually helping the situation of the cruelty to animals, and knowing her as an exemplary employee, that seems pretty reasonable," Troxler said.

Troxler supports Ag vet amid Butterball probe Troxler supports Ag vet amid Butterball probe

According to a search warrant released last week, Mason first denied contacting Gonder but admitted it only 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 agriculture department had asked her to make the call and that no one else there was aware of her actions.

No charges have been filed in the case.

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

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."

49 Comments

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  • wral mods blow close my account Jan 23, 2012

    Troxler needs to go.

  • dumbhick Jan 20, 2012

    It isn't about turkeys folks, it's about a state official tipping off an entity under investigation.
    Sheriff's office contacts a state official to inform her that there is a pending investigation and she contacts an employee of the company to inform them that there is an investigation.
    Doesn't matter if it's about drugs or turkeys, doesn't matter if she was worried about the turkeys. As a state official she tipped off someone under investigation, and she knew it was wrong. She lied about it until there was no way out then confessed. She was wrong and Troxler is wrong to support her. Are we supposed to give them a pass on this because they are Republicans? Do they get a pass because they are state officials? Would they get a pass if they were sheriff's deputies? Dispatchers? A Janitor who overheard that the farm was under investigation?

    Last question .... Anybody think a law enforcement agency is going to contact the Ag Department for advice again?

  • MakoII Jan 20, 2012

    Mr. Troxler isn't into politics. He's a "bawls to the walls" "get the job done" kind of guy and if the point is hurt animals then what are they going to do, wait until the police show up?

    Veterinarians CARE about animals. And Com. Troxler CARES about his employees.

    Leading by action, and by what's morally RIGHT. Some ought to take note. I applaud both employee's conduct. The news, typically, is trying to read sinister into ordinary conduct. The Ag department routinely attempts to FIX problems, not play GOTCHA games...

  • RM24 Jan 20, 2012

    Well that says a lot for your character as well. I guess it's ok for the drug agents to tip off the drug dealers when they are being raided so no innocent children get any of that dope before they get there. makes as much sense as what he said...
    Ladyblue- the Phoenix

    The mere fact that you see no difference in the effects of someone kicking a turkey and someone dealing drugs to anyone let alone school children. Are you so ignorant that you don't see the difference in abuse in Turkey houses and the effects of meth/herion/cocaine/ect on families and societies? And to say that letting someone know a turkey house is under investigation is the same as letting drug dealers go is unbelievably REDICULOUS!

  • driverkid3 Jan 20, 2012

    Why is this not surprising? Anyone in their right mind could tell just by reading this story what political party these people belonged to.

  • disgusted2010 Jan 19, 2012

    What a breath of fresh air. Mr Troxler supporting an employee and not throwing her under the bus like Bev does every time the liberal media creates a scandal.

  • qrvmedic Jan 19, 2012

    Her actions showed at the very least poor judgement, at the worst criminal intent. I would be OK with giving her the benefit of the doubt except that she initially lied about calling. She should be fired immediatley for that. Troxler shouldn't cover for her, he should fire her. Having said that, I think Republicans are moderately less corrupt then Democrats but all politicians are currupt and I hope people understand that these animals are not "murdered" they are slaughtered for food which is what they are raised for. Duhhhhh.

  • ladyblue Jan 19, 2012

    "She says she was making that decision thinking she was actually helping the situation of the cruelty to animals, and knowing her as an exemplary employee, that seems pretty reasonable," Troxler said.

    Well that says a lot for your character as well. I guess it's ok for the drug agents to tip off the drug dealers when they are being raided so no innocent children get any of that dope before they get there. makes as much sense as what he said...

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 19, 2012

    Can't believe that people are attacking this fine lady, look at all the Turkeys she stop from abuse before the investigators got there. I bet it was in the thousands. So some of the evidents got eaten. They still could of done their investigation.

  • gnewsome1 Jan 19, 2012

    FYI. butterball and other companies contract with local farmers to raise turkeys. The houses are owned and operated by local farmers, not butterball, something that was conveniently omitted from this article.

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