This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical.
The conviction is for a Class H felony. Other Class H felonies in North Carolina include breaking or entering buildings with felonious intent, possessing of stolen goods, embezzlement under $100,000, obtaining property by false pretenses, and hit and runs resulting in an injury, among others. Those are largely offenses involving property, which is predictable, given the status of animals and the national status of birds, who aren’t even considered animals. Still, even seeing the word “felony” thrown around with factory farm abuse is huge, and it isn’t as if those other Class H felonies are things you want on your record. If nothing else, this conviction shows that disregarding animal welfare does have consequences that at least some states are willing to enforce.
Then again, Butterball seems to think everything is already hunky dory, and I’m suspicious of how profitable enforcement will be versus simply hiring new workers when abusers are caught.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal law, animal rights, animal welfare, factory farms, thanksgiving Tagged: | activism, animal abuse, animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal law, animal rights, animal suffering, animal welfare, animals, battery cages, Brian Douglas, Butterball, butterball animal abuse, butterball felony, CAFOS, factory farms, farmed animals, Hoke County, industrial farming, Mercy for Animals, North Carolina, turkey, turkey cruelty