Butterball is responding to NBC-17’s exclusive on camera interview with an animal rights activist who said she shot undercover video of turkey abuse at a farm in Hoke County.
A two day raid at a Butterball facility ended Friday following an undercover investigation by the group Mercy for Animals (MFA).
MFA says it obtained undercover video of alleged abuse and neglect at the turkey farm in Shannon, N.C., between November and December 2011.
“Pretty much every time I was in the barns I would turn the camera on and I would capture stuff,” said the woman, who asked NBC 17 not to identify her.
The video was handed over to law enforcement and the group filed a criminal complaint. On Thursday, state law enforcement officials obtained a warrant and raided the facility, MFA said.
The investigator said she was hired at the farm using her real name and real Social Security number. She is a contract investigator for MFA and captured the video wearing a small camera on her body.
"It doesn't ultimately matter what we say the purpose of these animals actually is. What matters is that animals are living and feeling creatures, the same way that we are and our cats and dogs are. You can see it in their eyes. They're responding to the pain and the suffering that they're experiencing,” she told NBC-17.
Garner-based Butterball issued a statement from Rod Brenneman, CEO and president:
“We were shocked to see the undercover footage posted online recently. We take this very seriously and are investigating the situation fully. Animal care is central to who Butterball is as a company. We are committed to the health and well being of our turkey flocks. Moreover, we do not and will not tolerate animal abuse in any of our facilities or on our farms. Butterball has a zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our turkeys as well as the failure to immediately report mistreatment of our turkeys by any associates. In fact, associates found in violation of Butterball’s animal welfare policies are subject to immediate termination.”
After seeing NBC 17’s interview with the investigator, Butterball added:
“Butterball requires all associates sign an animal welfare agreement to report abuse immediately. It is unfortunate that no one on this crew -- including the person taking the undercover video -- did so.”
"I worked there for about four weeks and then once we discovered that there were criminal levels of abuse occurring, that's when we went immediately to authorities. I terminated my own employment there,” the investigator said.
She said the majority of people she worked with seemed to feel they were carrying out orders from the company. In one case, however, she said a worker was angry about an injury from a turkey, so he kicked the bird and slammed it against a truck. The investigator said no one showed remorse for any abuse.
She said she is hoping the people in the video will face criminal charges and that similar behavior is happening on other farms.
"I believe that it is my responsibility to bring justice to these animals,” she said.
According to the Butterball statement, the company is working with Hoke County government officials in response to the video. Butterball said it has internal and third-party audits underway as part of its investigation.
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