A former worker at the Butterball turkey farm near Fayetteville, NC, has pleaded guilty on August 28 to animal cruelty and will serve 30 days in jail, authorities said Tuesday. Brian Douglas will also serve 42 months of probation and pay a $250 fine.
Four other workers were charged with cruelty to animals, and their cases are pending, said Matt Rice, director of investigations for Mercy for Animals.
This conviction is believed to be the first-ever felony cruelty-to-animals decision in a case related to birds-used-for-food production conditions in the United States.
In November and December of 2011, Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group, smuggled a video camera into the Butterball factory-farm facility in Shannon, N.C., which is approximately 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville.
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Hoke County sheriff’s deputies raided the facility in the last week of December, and criminal charges were filed against Douglas and the four other Butterball employees in February by state prosecutors, according to bizjournal.com.
Brian Douglas and several other Butterball employees were filmed violently kicking and stomping birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars
Poultry makes up approximately 8 billion, out of the nearly 9 billion land animals raised and killed for food each year in the United States, according to Mercy for Animals. Thus, this felony conviction sets a powerful legal precedent, they state.
Michael Hardin, Hoke County senior assistant district attorney, said regarding the prosecution of this case:
"Animals destined to enter the food supply for consumers, still deserve protection from completely senseless and totally unnecessary acts of cruelty," said "Although, these animals are destined to be slaughtered, there is no justification for actions that amount to torture."
Butterball has stated that it condemns the alleged behavior of the five employees and has been fully cooperating with all external investigations. It is also taking steps to assure that employees are retrained and establishing a hotline for anonymous reporting of animal abuse, according to a written statement issued by the company.
Mercy for Animals contends that the cruelty demonstrated in the underground video was not just the isolated behavior of a few employees but indicative of an atmosphere of pervasive animal cruelty throughout the industry.
The Los Angeles-based nonprofit states as part of its mission that it will “...shine a spotlight on the cruel and corrupt practices of factory farms” and “urges preventing the needless suffering of turkeys and other animals by adopting a compassionate vegan diet.”
See related story with undercover video taken by Compassion Over Killing inside Central Valley Meat Co. (CVM) a California slaughterhouse, in June-July 2011
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