Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

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.

8 Responses

  1. […] Full story Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. In the sense this has never happened before, I can see why it’s making news; but my view, nonhuman animals benefit little from exposing extraordinary cruelty on particular farms. They are not “victories”, as these groups describe them, because they allow consumers to imagine cruelty is an exception, and the company can simply fire people who break the rules — when in reality, farming is inherently cruel. Whether or not employees are sadistic, there’s no way to end cruelty to animals, except to stop using them.

    Like us, nonhumans can think, feel, and experience emotions. They need us to speak for the depth of their experiences, instead of reducing their interests to the minimal comfort standards established by animal welfare. This includes refusing to accept the hypocrisy of “humane farming”. Our uncompromising message should be that no matter how animals are bred, raised, and killed, farming cannot become “humane”.

    True mercy for animals requires us to stop farming them and exploiting them in other ways. True victory for farm animals is in the recognition that farming always was and will be inherently cruel.

  3. Check out meatvideo.com for more information on cruelty to animals. It’s a short informative video and has a lot of great information. Have you seen it?

  4. Ellie, yes farming is inherently cruel but many people do not realize to what extent. These videos are in fact victories because they force distributors to watch the atrocities on these farms and re-evaluate their sources for meat and eggs (you can see for yourself at http://www.mfablog.org/2012/01/mfas-top-11-successes-of-2011.html), and they also bring awareness to the public causing them to re-evaluate their daily food choices. True, farm animals will experience some form of suffering, but the current conditions and treatment these creatures receive is absolutely deplorable and unnecessary. One may not be able to eradicate suffering within this context but one can certainly lessen it, and that is what organizations like Mercy for Animals strive and prove to do.

  5. Thank you for your reply, Pauline, but I can’t agree.

  6. […] Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse (animalblawg.wordpress.com) […]

  7. New Mexico had a company that had an application in for a horse slaughter facility. Governor and city councils put so much pressure on the company they pulled the permit request.I don’t normally like it when the government inter-fears with business but this is not something I want to see here.

  8. […] Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse (animalblawg.wordpress.com) […]

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