Shannon, N.C. — The animal rights group that exposed alleged abuses Thursday at a Butterball turkey farm explained Friday how they got the disturbing images that brought Hoke County sheriff's deputies to the facility.
Nathan Runkle, of Mercy for Animals, said a group representative worked for three weeks at the farm, at 4213 N. Shannon Road in Shannon, and captured hidden camera video of employees kicking and stomping birds, dragging them by their wings and necks and throwing turkeys around.
"Our investigation showed this is a pattern of abuse and neglect and that Butterball has failed miserably to prevent egregious animal abuse from occurring on its factory farm," Runkle said.
Mercy for Animals says the blame for abuses ultimately lies with Butterball senior management who, Runkle said, is responsible for the oversight, policies and worker training that would prevent animal abuse.
"They allowed a culture of cruelty and neglect to flourish," he said.
Butterball, headquartered in Garner, is the largest producer of turkey products in the United States. On Thursday, the company released a statement saying, "Butterball has a zero-tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our birds. ... Animal welfare is central to Butterball."
"I think it's heartbreaking," Runkle said. "I think it's a clear violation of North Carolina's cruelty statutes."
Veterinarians are checking every one of the estimated 2,500 turkeys found at the Hoke County farm. Capt. John Kivett, of the Hoke County Sheriff's Office, said the vets will determine if any of the animals need to be euthanized.
Runkle would prefer that people refrain from eating animals at all, but, acknowledging that's unlikely, his group is pushing for more oversight and stronger animal protection laws.