Animal rights group calls for state ag official's firing

Posted February 16, 2012

— The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should have fired an official who tipped off Butterball to a criminal investigation of one of its turkey operations in Hoke County, an animal rights group said Thursday.

Dr. Sarah Mason, director of animal health programs in the department's Poultry Division, pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice and resisting, delaying or obstructing officers. She was placed on probation for a year.

The charges stem from a Dec. 29 raid by Hoke County deputies at a Butterball farm in Shannon. Six days before the raid, Mason contacted a veterinarian for Butterball to inform him that Hoke County prosecutors were reviewing an undercover video of suspected animal abuse at the farm.

Investigators found some turkeys at the farm were in such poor condition that they had to be euthanized.

The agriculture department on Monday suspended Mason for two weeks without pay following an internal investigation of the incident. The department said her actions didn't adversely affect the investigation.

Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, which taped the undercover footage at the turkey farm and turned it over to authorities, disagreed and criticized the agriculture department for its stance.

"Clearly, this investigation has been compromised by the leak," Runkle said. "The Department of Agriculture's actions are too little, too late and amount to a mere slap on the wrist. Dr. Mason should be fired for these egregious ethics violations."

Mason has been unavailable for comment.

In a statement issued by her attorney last month, she said the Butterball veterinarian is a longtime friend and that she called him because she wanted to stop the abuse immediately. She 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.

Hoke County turkey farm raided after animal cruelty complaints Group: Punishment for farm raid leak 'too little, too late'

Garner-based Butterball said five current and former workers at the farm have been charged with animal cruelty in the case. Three of the workers were fired last month, and the other two were suspended Wednesday, the company said.

Two of the men, Ruben Mendoza and Terry Johnson, no ages or addresses available, were arrested Wednesday, and a third, Ronnie Jacobs, 57, of 4475 Rockfish Road, Lot 22 in Raeford, was arrested Thursday.

Hoke County deputies were still searching for Brian Gerrard Douglas, 35, of 7140 Laurinburg Road in Raeford, and Billy Thomas McBryde, 52, of 22-A West Gate Terrace in Red Springs.

Butterball said it was reviewing its animal welfare polices and planned to retrain workers on animal care and allow outside experts to audit its operations.

Runkle said he doesn't believe the company will make any changes, calling animal abuse a problematic pattern that reaches the top levels of the firm.

"Although Butterball has publicly claimed to have a zero-tolerance for animal abuse, as this case illustrates, little could be further from the truth," he said. "Shame on Butterball for allowing a culture of cruelty and neglect to foster at its company-owned factory farm. This is the height of corporate irresponsibility."


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  • HereswhatIthink Feb 17, 2012

    Why do people make this a political issue. Animal abuse is wrong no matter what your political views are. It isn't about whether you ate turkey on Thanksgiving. It isn't about those who choose to eat meat and those that don't. It is about people that knowingly mistreated animals which caused them undue harm, stress and pain. I get that they will be killed for human consumption but geesh respect the animal that gives its life so you can fill your belly.

  • Oprahisthedevil Feb 17, 2012

    I want to keep typing to let all you animal rights nuts know just how....oh my...I'm so sleepy from all the turkey I ate earlier....I think I'll take a nap instead.

  • ryderted Feb 17, 2012

    I'm not on the red or blue team. I think ALL folks that are, are misled sheep. Both parties want you to pick a side so nothing really gets done and they both can keep raking in the cash at our expense.

    The fact is a group of people is taking money from you--your money. They are telling you they are doing one thing with it but in reality they're just spending it on their cars, homes, vacations and giving the rest to their buddies. Do you like people kicking you in the teeth and taking your stuff?

  • Deep Thought Feb 16, 2012

    lets go fishin - you miss the point. People are not trying to bury her over turkeys but the fact that she violated procedure then lied and lied and lied.

    Oh, you must be used to Repubs that make things up when ever they want to, then when they are caught they lie and lie. I understand now.

  • sandhillsk92 Feb 16, 2012

    The USDA is the biggest Tax Payer waist in NC .... she needs to go Home for good as well as the other Vets who can't make it in the real world and sitting on stats jobs!

  • samr Feb 16, 2012


    Great post --- victimless crime IMO. I don't know if you were trying to bring some levity to this discussion but you did.

  • lets go fishin Feb 16, 2012

    Look...up there in the sky .. A helicopter.. They are throwing out live turkeys.... Oh my God they can't fly and they are falling and smashing to the ground. So turkeys have feelings.. Good for them...People have feelings too. This is about liberal PETA types trying to bury a woman...a doctor...Over TURKEYS. Do ants or spiders or fish or mice have feelings? How crazy can folks be. And sooo many.

  • msaag2005 Feb 16, 2012

    for all those people who say " turkeys are food. YUMMY" you are frankly so insensitive and blinded to the true that you dont even know. It doesnt matter if it was a turkey because if it was a human, no one would be saying this. " Injustic everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." And thats just what it is. INJUSTICE for the turkeys and for the unsuspecting people who continue to eat the hormone pumped animals. SHE NEEDS TO BE FIRED!!!

  • toldham01 Feb 16, 2012

    I think she should lose her job! She is looking out for the wrong side and it was not a error she knew what she was doing or she would have not lied when first question......

  • gtstallings45 Feb 16, 2012

    there is just so much wrong with all of this, and i honestly don't think that commissioner troxler has anything to do with this. i am a registered democrat. troxler is a good guy. this is an example of how big ole corporate farms are just that - corporate = money. not about balance between humanely treating animals that people eat. the inhumane people who treated animals with such hostility are probably just acting out their own frustrations. but still, it is intollerable and they should be fired. but butterball should face more consequences than firing what are probably subminimum wage people. their corporate environment tollerate this travesty. i hope the ceo of butterbally sleeps very, very poorly for a long time. but somehow i doubt it. i will never buy another butterball product again.