SHANNON — Hoke County deputies spent Thursday at a turkey farm that raises turkeys for Butterball LLC after an animal rights group said it captured undercover video that shows animal cruelty.
A secretly recorded video by an undercover worker from the Chicago-based Mercy For Animals, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent cruelty to farm animals, showed turkeys being kicked, beaten and thrown, according to a report in The Fayetteville Observer.
Hoke County deputies began searching the plant on Shannon Road Thursday morning after learning of the video that had been made at the facility. Investigators, including deputies and a team of veterinarians, spent the day and part of the night looking for signs of mistreatment to more than 2,800 birds that are housed at the farm.
“There is going to be the possibility of some being euthanized,” Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin told the newspaper. “I can’t confirm if there has been any yet.”
No arrests for cruelty have been made.
“We’re still investigating and executing the (search) warrant,” Capt. John Kivett, who is supervising the investigation for the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, said this morning. “An investigation like this could easily take several weeks. When the investigation is complete, we’ll sit down with the District Attorney’s Office and determine if any criminal charges should be filed.”
According to the Fayetteville newspaper, Anna Agnew, a spokesman for Garner-based Butterball, said in a statement that Butterball takes the allegations of cruelty seriously and “fully supports” the efforts being made by law enforcement. The statement issued by Butterball on Thursday said the company has zero tolerance for abusing animals and is working with the deputies in their investigation.
Deputies came to the the farm after Mercy for Animals sent prosecutors three weeks of undercover footage by a member of the group who worked at the farm. According to the newspaper, the group says that the videos document turkeys being kicked, stomped and dragged by their wings and necks. The group also said the videos document turkeys living in their own waste, covered in flies and unable to access food or water.
Butterball, the nation’s largest producer of turkey products, bought the farm from Tarheel Turkey Hatchery in December 2011. Although the plant has a Shannon address, it is located in Hoke County.