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Undercover Turkey Investigation Results in First-Ever Felony Charges

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Undercover Turkey Investigation Results in First-Ever Felony Charges by Steve MartindaleHave you ever had the chance to hang out with wild turkeys? If you have, you know that they are gorgeous, caring, expressive, and intelligent birds. Well, conditions for turkeys on factory farms are a far cry from providing an idyllic life. PETA’s undercover investigation at the factory farms of Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., in West Virginia exposed horrendous abuse of birds by more than a dozen supervisors and workers. Need proof? Here is the video and the details of what we uncovered.

We’ve seen these kinds of malicious acts on undercover videos before, so what makes this one so different? For the first time in U.S. history, felony cruelty-to-animals charges are being brought against former farm workers who were documented abusing the birds. That is a huge statement, when you consider that more than 9 billion individual chickens and turkeys are slaughtered in this country every year, and most of them are subjected to cruel and painful lives, not to mention cruel and painful deaths.

The Aviagen indictments marked a turning point–this is the kind of landmark decision that can precipitate change in a profit-driven industry that has been fiercely resistant to animal welfare concerns. The 19 indictments brought against Aviagen’s ex-employees make it clear that animal abuse will not be tolerated. A felony cruelty-to-animals conviction is more than a light slap on the wrist: In West Virginia, it carries a sentence of one to five years in prison and a $1,000 to $5,000 fine.

Protecting birds on factory farms and in slaughterhouses has been difficult. Even though they are fully aware of their surroundings and feel pain just as we do, chickens and turkeys–who make up more than 99 percent of the land animals killed for food in the U.S.–aren’t protected at all by the U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (the only federal law governing animal welfare in slaughterhouses, which is weak and seldom enforced). Let that sink in: Birds don’t even count! Abuse these sentient creatures however you like on factory farms and in slaughterhouses–that’s Congress’ take on the issue. Chickens and turkeys must take whatever punishment is meted out to them. Their treatment can be so painful that it staggers the senses, as the undercover video demonstrates.

Most states have laws that deem “usual and accepted standards” of the agricultural industry to be exempt from punishment, regardless of how callous they may be. But there are also provisions in most state cruelty-to-animals laws for prosecuting egregious acts of abuse. And that’s where PETA has found a foothold for securing charges against those who inflict such horrific cruelty on animals. PETA’s undercover videos and first-person accounts of rampant atrocities give local authorities the evidence that they need to bring charges based on state cruelty-to-animals laws.

Indeed, PETA now has 46 criminal charges of animal abuse on factory farms pending against a total of nine individuals in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Iowa (plus the recent conviction of a pig-farm worker in the largest pork-producing state in the country). We hope that there will be more indictments and charges to come.

In a truly compassionate world, no one would raise and kill animals to eat them. But until that day comes, PETA’s brave undercover workers will drag hellholes like these out into the light for all to see. And a tipping point has been reached, now that abusing factory-farmed birds has been deemed worthy of felony charges. Tomorrow will be just a little better for countless birds.

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    ShirleyBird says...

    February 25th, 2009, 11:12 am

    Good work PETA. ALL animals have the same feelings, emotions, and wants whether they be your pet or “only” somebodys’ “food” and thus they
    should ALL be treated the same by law.
    I say let the punishment fit the crime. Sentence the perpetrators to life imprisoned inside a crowded, stinking, filthy factory farm turkey shed. Prison and/or a fine will teach them nothing.

    Thom Kelty says...

    February 27th, 2009, 4:41 pm

    Thanks PETA for raising our awareness of the sentience of our fellow creatures. I appreciate your efforts to help humanity grasp the fact that animals share the same emotional and creature needs humans have. Compassion dictates that we raise the standard of awareness and interactions. All benefit from compassion.

    april says...

    February 28th, 2009, 12:15 am

    turkey is not healthy!!!

    louis coker says...

    February 28th, 2009, 12:47 pm

    i’m just dittoing what shirleybird posted.well said

    Monica says...

    March 1st, 2009, 12:42 am

    I agree they need to have a punishment that will teach them that animals feel, suffer, and can feel stressed. A fine is nothing. It has to be a punishment that will teach or a life sentence so that they never get near to an animal again.

    Alice Fraser says...

    April 12th, 2009, 11:19 am

    Hello
    I think that we need to rewrite the animal laws and include farm animals.
    I think that if workers are abusing farm animals they should go to jail.
    I think that the max should be 25 years in jail and the min should be 10 years in jail. I think that slaughterhouses need a makeover. I think that we should get rid of the stun gun and CAK should only be used. There should be cameras in every slaughterhouse. I dont think that workers should be aloud in slaughterhouses. I think that there should be machines instead.
    Its good that the man got charged I think that they should go to jail for 5 years instead of a $5,000 fine. From Alice

    Jan Geren says...

    November 25th, 2009, 7:39 pm

    There shouldn’t be slaughterhouses in this time in history. Meat of any kind is not healthy, but most importantly, suffering hurts life, any part of life should not have to ever go through what the animals are put through to appease people’s appetite.
    All should be born to live and love and have families to nurture and exchange love just as we do.
    Anyone that can kill an animal to me is a criminal; to inflict pain; suffering; violence on any part of life should be a crime. Maybe sometime it will be. For now, the only comfort I have is that there is a better place and that the perpetuators of this henious act will meet the same fate for their actions in time.

    Nancy says...

    November 26th, 2009, 9:00 pm

    I think the people who abuse all animals should be put in the same situation as the animal was. plus a fine and a jail sentence. Lets make laws for farm animals and make slaughterhouse close their doors we can do it if we all stick together and not put up with it. This is almost 2010 and the abuse goes on and on,lets stop it NOW

    Mark says...

    December 9th, 2009, 5:17 pm

    I love what you lot are saying, but I’d go further still and say that, jailed for life or left in the wilds of Africa/Canada with no food, water and at the mercy of the elements-and any wild animals left if we’re lucky should be a light sentence-certain death would be much better-especially for animals that are so endangered that they’re virtually wiped off Earth already! Death penalties may help ease this deplorably overcrowded planet a bit too, considering the number of plain evil people o it seems to increase daily too-can they be linked I wonder?

    It may seem ridiculously niave to dream of a world where animals ARE worthy of all the rights people have, and that consuming, wearing, testing on, imprisoning them and hunting them for entertainment and destroying their land, air and seascapes for our unnaturally overgrowing population would not even be thought of, nevermind practised as normality, but I don’t see why, when we live in a world made so awful by people as we do, we can’t look to something better, even if it is just a fantasy. It’s so wrong us decent ones only get one chance down here-I’d so love to be born again in better times with better people, in a world where compassion all across the board-and certainly to non-humans was a completely normal, accepted and even expected part of life!

    nancy says...

    December 23rd, 2010, 5:25 pm

    If everyone actually watched what happens inside slaughterhouse there would be many more vegans.

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