The following press release is posted here:
Indictments Are First Felony Charges for Abuse of Factory-Farmed Birds
For Immediate Release:
February 9, 2009
Dan Paden 757-622-7382
Lewisburg, W.Va. — A Greenbrier County grand jury has issued 19 indictments for cruelty to animals against three former employees of Aviagen Turkeys, Inc. The workers were among those documented abusing and killing turkeys during a PETA undercover investigation conducted last fall at Aviagen’s West Virginia factory farms. Eleven of the indictments are felony charges, the first time in U.S. history–and overdue, according to animal welfare workers–that factory farm employees have faced felony cruelty-to-animals charges for abusing birds. Each felony charge is punishable by one to five years in jail and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. The eight misdemeanor indictments issued are punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of $300 to $2,000, or both.
The indictments follow an investigation conducted by the West Virginia State Police into acts documented by PETA. The indicted men–Edward Eric Gwinn, Walter Lee “Pee Wee” Hambrick, and Scott Alvin White–were investigated for acts such as stomping on turkeys’ heads, twisting turkeys’ necks in failed attempts to kill them, and repeatedly banging a turkey’s head against metal scaffolding. Gwinn was investigated for his mimicked rape–caught on video–of a turkey hen whom he had pinned against the floor. Additional charges against the men are anticipated to be filed soon in neighboring Monroe County for similar acts committed in that jurisdiction.
PETA recently learned from a whistleblower that Aviagen still has some abusive workers on its payroll. PETA has notified Virginia and federal authorities of suspected drug-related crimes and violations of labor regulations.
“This decisive action by the West Virginia State Police sends a strong message to those who abuse animals,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “If anyone at home wants to guarantee that they won’t support such cruelty, they should leave turkey off the grocery list and try some vegetarian recipes.”
For more information, please visit PETA.org.
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