Sources: JDNews.com, Mercy For Animals, Examiner.com, WTIN.com
Editor’s Note: (Dec 10 2012) While considering his decision not to prosecute, Lee stated he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the animal cruelty committed was “malicious or egregious in nature.” “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 on applicable N.C. law,” Lee stated. (So then arrest just those in the video!)
DA: Evidence Doesn’t Support “Butterball” Cruelty Charge….. D.A. Ernie Lee (contact) stated in a press release that after reviewing allegations of animal cruelty against employees at Butterball, LLC (contact) in Onslow and surrounding counties, he determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed with any criminal charges.
On Oct. 31, Lee was contacted by the general counsel for Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles organization dedicated to “preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and polices,” according to its website.
“General Counsel told me that the organization believed that alleged acts of animal cruelty were committed at several turkey houses in Duplin, Onslow and Sampson counties,” Lee stated. “She informed me that an employee of Mercy for Animals obtained employment from Butterball, LLC and worked in the turkey houses in question from approximately Oct. 1 to Oct. 26, 2012.”
The employee reported that he saw acts of animal cruelty while working in the turkey houses and documented his findings on video, according to the release.
“We encourage consumers to watch the undercover footage from Mercy For Animals’ Butterball investigation and boycott Butterball products if they do not want to support malicious cruelty to animals,” Nathan Runkle, Mercy For Animals’ executive director, said in a prepared statement.
Runkle said the undercover video, posted at ButterballAbuse.com, documents an ongoing pattern of animal abuse and neglect and reflect abuses documented earlier at a different Butterball facility in Hoke County. The Hoke County investigation ended with two Butterball employees being convicted of felony or misdemeanor animal cruelty and three others with misdemeanor animal cruelty cases pending, according to the statement.
Lee reviewed video footage and other documentation on Nov. 4 and, along with Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Maultsby, met with members of Mercy for Animals on Nov. 8. Lee said he also reviewed state and federal regulations concerning handling poultry and documents related to the Animal Welfare Program for Butterball, according to the release.
“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 on applicable N.C. law,” Lee stated.
The footage and documents showed turkeys being moved from the turkey houses to the truck conveyor belt for apparent slaughter for human consumption, the DA stated in the release. The video showed that the majority of workers did not have physical contact with the turkeys, and the ones who did didn’t appear “to attempt to wound, injure or torment the turkeys.” Instead the contact appeared to have the intent of moving the turkeys from the turkey houses to the conveyor belt, the release stated.
“…(T)here appears to be insufficient evidence to prove any alleged abuse of turkeys beyond a reasonable doubt in the investigation before me involving the Butterball turkey houses in Duplin, Onslow and Sampson counties,” Lee stated.
Runkle said his organization is considering civil action against Butterball.
“The District Attorney’s decision not to uphold the law is extremely troubling. All animals have the right to be treated humanely no matter how short their lives.,” Runkle said in the statement
According to WIT.com Lee stated the majority of the turkeys were moved without any physical contact and for the other birds the workers did not seem to wound or injure them.
“So if ten turkeys out of 100 birds were abused and treated cruelly, then there’s no sense in charging workers with animal cruelty because they’re going to die anyway? I think this prosecutor is a fool and after viewing the video, I can’t imagine why those employees should be patted on the back for animal cruelty,” stated Lisa Cowan of Raleigh, N.C.