DA declines to file charges against Butterball workers

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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GARNER, NC – A North Carolina district attorney said he would not file charges against Butterball workers accused of animal cruelty, because there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that turkey were harmed at farms in Duplin, Onslow and Sampson counties.

Animal rights group Mercy for Animals brought the allegations of animal cruelty in November. The organization released a video that reportedly depicted workers abusing turkeys at a production facility operated by Butterball.

In a statement released Dec. 10, District Attorney Ernie Lee said:

“After reviewing the video footage and documentary material, I do not believe that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that acts of animal cruelty were committed by the employees depicted in the video based upon applicable North Carolina law.”

Lee said the footage and documents that he reviewed “…depicted workers attempting to move and moving numerous turkeys from turkey houses to trucks. The turkeys are being moved from the turkey houses to the truck conveyor belt for apparent slaughter for human consumption. The overwhelming majority of turkeys were moved without any physical contact from the workers. There were some depictions in the video of when the workers had to move turkeys by physical contact. The workers did not appear to attempt to wound, injure or torment the turkeys, but rather the workers’ contact with the turkeys appeared to be with the intent of moving the turkeys from the turkey houses to a conveyor belt leading to a transport truck.”

Lee added that any contact with the turkeys did not appear to be egregious or malicious and did not appear to harm the turkeys. He concluded that the conduct of the workers would not be in violation of North Carolina law.

“Mercy For Animals is disappointed that District Attorney Ernie Lee will not be filing criminal charges against Butterball workers who were caught on video 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,” Nathan Runkle, executive director of MFA, said in a prepared statement. “North Carolina law clearly indicates that these acts are illegal and should be punished, and that District Attorney’s decision not to uphold the law is extremely troubling.”

Runkle added that the group is considering civil action against Butterball.

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