Butterball Abuse

Is it even possible to take an undercover camera into a meat production facility and NOT find abuse? Apparently not.

Apologies to all of you out there who are starting to lick your lips over the idea of a big, fat, gravy-doused turkey on your table next week. But Mercy For Animals has got another undercover investigation that should give you pause:

In October of 2012, an MFA investigator documented a pattern of shocking abuse and neglect at numerous Butterball turkey operations in North Carolina, including:

  • workers kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or on top of other birds;
  • birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, and broken bones; and
  • workers grabbing birds by their wings or necks and violently slamming them into tiny transport crates with no regard for their welfare.

Worse, these are exactly the same sorts of things that Mercy For Animals found at a Butterball plant last year (an investigation which led to criminal animal abuse charges against plant workers). So I guess humanely producing a Thanksgiving turkey is not really in our culture despite how much we revere Thanksgiving and turkeys.

Here’s what Mercy For Animals says about what it did with its footage, and why the practices shown are so cruel:

Following the investigation, MFA immediately went to law enforcement with extensive video footage and a detailed legal complaint outlining the culture of cruelty at Butterball. Law enforcement is investigating.

Unfortunately, the lives of turkeys in Butterball’s factory farms are short, brutal, and filled with fear, violence, and constant suffering. While wild turkeys are sleek, agile, and able to fly, Butterball’s turkeys have been selectively bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many of them suffer from painful bone defects, hip joint lesions, crippling foot and leg deformities, and fatal heart attacks.

Even though domestic turkeys have been genetically manipulated for enormous growth, these birds still retain their gentle, inquisitive, and social natures. Oregon State University poultry scientist Dr. Tom Savage says that turkeys are “smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings.”

In fact, animal behaviorists, veterinarians, and scientists agree that turkeys are sensitive and intelligent animals with their own unique personalities, much like the dogs and cats we all know and love.

As the world’s largest producer of turkey meat, Butterball is responsible for 20 percent of the 252 million turkeys raised and killed for food each year in the United States, and 30 percent of the 46 million turkeys who are killed for Thanksgiving.

Even if you want to eat a cruelty-free turkey for Thanksgiving, there are only a handful of farms left in America that raise turkeys which live normal turkey lives and haven’t been genetically modified in painful ways.

Anyhow, for all these reasons, we’re going for a turkey-free Thanksgiving this year, even though there will be some meat-eaters around our table (one of the perks of doing the cooking!). And if you want to give it a shot, here’s a bunch of good recipe ideas.

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