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Animal advocacy group videotaped abuses at Hoke turkey farm

Posted December 30, 2011

— 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.

Hoke butterball farm hidden video Animal rights group files complaint against Butterball

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.


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  • ptrrrk1 Jan 2, 2012

    I will never buy a butterball product again......

  • 1Moms_View Dec 30, 2011

    It is not unusual for turkeys or chickens raised in houses such as these to have injuries. These most of the time are caused by the other animals in the house. There are also deaths which are attributed to multiple reasons, including other birds and natural causes. Not having seen the video that allegedly shows the kicking and stomping, I can't speak to that issue. However, I seriously doubt all injuries to birds in that house came from abusive actions by workers. Not that true abuse should ever be tolerated, but I doubt all the injuries they allege came from abuse just based on the quantity of birds and the size of the ones in the short clip I did view. At that size, they're probably close to being picked and transported for slaughter. Sad, but injuries do occur.

  • meeper Dec 30, 2011

    Of course animal abuse is wrong. But we have more press about animal rights than we do about the destruction of our country and who's behind it!

  • rescuefan Dec 30, 2011

    I guess it shouldn't surprise me that some people here (and elsewhere) can actually condone the abuse and torture of a living being. I saw the video this afternoon when I was at the gym and had to turn away from the TV. It was horrible and there is no reason that they should be treated that way. This is why I only buy my meat from places that provide free range, humanely slaughtered animals (Whole Foods).

    There is no excuse for treating any animal in a cruel manner, regardless of whether you actually like animals or not. Anyone who can treat an innocent animal cruelly can do the exact thing to a child, who is also innocent and unable to protect himself. A bully is a bully is a bully.

  • Riptide12 Dec 30, 2011

    Wonderful comments: princesshtbb313, marysdecor2004 and stormee4me.

    Animals should be treated with respect even if they are raised for slaughter. This is what we need to teach our children - respect every living creature!

  • gregg45 Dec 30, 2011

    own a livestock farm in johnston county for the production of meat and workers and myself ,,,dang,, how many ended up in the worker line>>? btw, how many of you did proudly, produce?

  • uncwilm Dec 30, 2011

    I would invite any of you with negative comments toward the farmers to visit any farm you will not be able to handle it if these video bother you. There is a reason animals are taken to slaughter houses because they get slaughtered.

  • cjc069 Dec 30, 2011

    it is not all the fault of butterball management that this happened. most of the blame should be put on the persons who did the crime.if the court can prove that management knew of this crime then they should be punished the same as the persons commiting the crimes. i own a livestock farm in johnston county for the production of meat and workers and myself treat the animals with great respect.

  • ICTrue Dec 30, 2011

    Farming isn't pretty...I didn't see any stomping of any bird in the facist's video either. I see they got a few new bleeding hearts on their side though, so mission accomplished for them.

  • hardwood_dude Dec 30, 2011

    Lots of things can and do happen on farms that would turn anyone's stomach, even the farmer's stomach at times. But they do what they have to do to feed our nation. I am thankful that we have the food and resources here that we do. THANK YOU FARMERS FOR GETTING IT DONE!