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Authorities accuse state official of tipping Butterball to farm raid

Posted January 11, 2012
Updated January 12, 2012

— A state agriculture official leaked information about a raid on a Butterball turkey farm in Hoke County last month to company officials six days before the raid, according to a search warrant released Wednesday.

Hoke County deputies raided the farm, at 4213 N. Shannon Road in Shannon, on Dec. 29 after the animal rights group Mercy for Animals provided authorities with video of employees kicking and stomping birds, dragging them by their wings and necks and throwing turkeys around.

The group said one of its members worked at the farm for three weeks and collected the hidden-camera video.

Authorities searched telephone records last week after learning that Dr. Sarah Mason tipped off a veterinarian for Butterball about the raid on Dec. 23, a search warrant states. Mason is director of animal health programs in the Poultry Division of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A Butterball manager called Hoke County prosecutors on Dec. 23 to ask about rumors of a raid on the farm, and he later told them that his information came from Goldsboro veterinarian Dr. Eric Gonder, according to the search warrant. Gonder then implicated Mason.

"It appears there clearly was some inappropriate contact between one of our employees and a veterinarian for Butterball," Brian Long, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said Thursday.

Sarah Mason, state ag official Ag official remorseful over alleged leak, spokesman says

No charges have been filed in the case, and Long said no disciplinary action has been taken against Mason yet, although officials have questioned her about the case.

"One thing I have been told is that her feeling has been that of remorse," he said. "We want to act appropriately, and we think to do that, we need to have all the facts."

The alleged leak occurred hours after Hoke County authorities called agriculture department officials for guidance on searching the Shannon farm and to see if anyone from the department wanted to inspect the turkeys, the warrant states.

Long said agriculture officials were somewhat surprised they were even notified about the pending raid because the department doesn't have the authority to regulate or investigate animal cruelty cases.

Butterball, which is headquartered in Garner, has said is has a zero-tolerance policy for animal cruelty.

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  • pbjbeach Jan 18, 2012

    In my own personal opinion mr troxler will in all likelyhood side with the business enity as that that is all the republican is all about anyway is the protection of business enitys in this state an this nation regardlees of what is fari or not for the republicans care not about the issues of fairness an truthfulness as long as they are protecting the business class in this state an this country . they are the ones totaly responsibly for the dimissal conditions of the overall u.s ecomony anyway for they are the ones that drove the car of state into the ditch in the first place during the previous bush adminstration in fact they drove it off of the cliff with ther allowance of extractionism rathter than real an true capitial investment in the overall u.s. ecomony ( GREEDY BAS ) thank you

  • pbjbeach Jan 18, 2012

    As to state official that are warning the businesses enitys an contractors that are to be inspected an or investigated by state inspectors or law enforcement it is no suprise to me that state official regualuarly warning business of pending inspections an or investigations. simply due to the fatc that the republican party is now in control of the legisture an they themselves are so pro-businees an are all in favor of the total deregulation of state an federal regulations. that the state officials /mangament will not actual allow for state inspector to actually be allowed by their mangers / exective mangament to perform their jobs dutys. for i was terminated an repeatly denied promontional oppurnitys because of the facts that i had insisted that the state speceficiations actually be enforced but to no avail for they mangament even allowd for contracting enity to receive payment of false claims that were unjustifiably paid out of taxpayers funding of both federal an state funding that sh

  • fayncmike Jan 13, 2012

    "wow. Wish we could maintain this standard of protection for our children.
    familyfour"

    Turkeys, like children are living creatures. Why should they not be protected as children are?

  • familyfour Jan 13, 2012

    wow. Wish we could maintain this standard of protection for our children.

  • kermit60 Jan 13, 2012

    Why is she not being charged? I' am beginning to have less and less respect for the law and our entire legal system.

  • fayncmike Jan 13, 2012

    "What about the video showing these guys kicking these poor chickens that we are about to eat. Lets spend our news and time or more important matters.
    barbstillkickin"

    Have you had your eyelids clamped open and been forced to watch stories you don't like?

  • barbstillkickin Jan 13, 2012

    What about the video showing these guys kicking these poor chickens that we are about to eat. Lets spend our news and time or more important matters.

  • Bob3425 Jan 13, 2012

    She should be Fired,

  • wral mods blow close my account Jan 12, 2012

    "Upon questioning by prosecutors, documents indicate, the government employee [Sarah] allegedly first denied knowing about the investigation until the raid, then admitted she had called the Butterball doctor prior to the raid ...

    In addition, the prosecutor alleged in the search warrant that conversations about the pending raid were supposed to be "treated as confidential, and should not be disclosed." "

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/da-butterball-tipped-off-turkey-farm-raid/story?id=15338637

  • wral mods blow close my account Jan 12, 2012

    More info at link below. Sarah Mason admits to investigatiors she tipped them off:

    http://www2.nbc17.com/news/2012/jan/11/warrants-state-worker-tipped-butterball-raid-ar-1804418/

    She should be fired, have her pension stripped, and arrested for obstruction of justice. Whoever runs against Troxler should use this issue if he does not fire the employee.

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