Hybrid Turkeys, among the world’s leading primary turkey breeders, suspends four employees after hidden-camera video shows ‘culture of cruelty.’
Workers punching, kicking and throwing turkeys. Their spines crushed and heads bashed in with metal rods and shovels.
Turkeys with rotting eyes, festering infections and open wounds; one left to drag its exposed intestines across the dirty ground.
These are the shocking images found by a hidden-camera investigation by an animal-rights group into an Ontario turkey farm. The footage is sparking tough questions about the lack of government oversight of the industry.
An investigator from Mercy for Animals Canada went undercover at Hybrid Turkeys Factory Farm in Kitchener, Ont., posing as an employee between Dec. 2 and Feb. 2, to gather the disturbing footage.
“A culture of cruelty and neglect was allowed to fester at this factory farm under the watch of management who failed to act to intervene to prevent the suffering of these animals,” said Twyla François, Mercy for Animals Canada director of investigations, at a news conference recently.
The Oxford County Ontario Provincial Police confirmed that it received a copy of the video Feb. 27 and have launched a criminal cruelty to animals investigation. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is also investigating.
Hybrid Turkeys said in a news release that four employees have been suspended with pay and the company is fully participating in the investigation.
Last week, the company announced video monitoring of the euthanasia of birds in their care.
“Hybrid has zero tolerance for animal abuse and we have taken clear and immediate steps to address the situation,” said managing director David Libertini.
Libertini called the incident an “isolated event,” but said the company has launched a third-party investigation to review policy and procedures at the farm.
Helen Wojcinski, the company’s science and sustainability manager, said in an interview Friday she was alarmed by the video. The undercover activist should have alerted management earlier about the alleged abuse, she said.
“If Mercy for Animals Canada had concerns they should have brought them forward to us immediately and not waited months and potentially put animals at risk,” she said.
More than 21 million turkeys are raised and killed for food every year in Canada — of which about 60 per cent come from Hybrid. Hendrix Genetics, the parent company of Hybrid Turkeys, is the second largest producer in the world.
François called the company’s actions “too little too late.”[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw_i1Yxc4Oo%5D
“The only reason they took action is because we documented such an ongoing and long-standing pattern of cruelty,” she said. “Without our investigation, I’m certain this abuse would have continued.”
She called the footage proof of systemic abuse in the industry, not an isolated incident. The investigator chose the company randomly, she said.
“Nearly all of the turkeys killed in Canada for food come from factory farms like this,” she said. “The lives of turkeys in factory farms are short, brutal and filled with fear, violence and prolonged suffering.”
Commercial turkeys are bred to grow so large so quickly that many of them suffer from painful bone defects, hip joint lesions, crippling foot and leg deformities and fatal heart attacks, she said.
Cruelty to animals is an offence in the Criminal Code, but investigations are usually led by provincial societies for the prevention of cruelty of animals, which typically must be tipped off by whistleblowers.
“The only regulations that are in place were established by the industry itself and compliance is completely voluntary,” said François.
Mercy for Animals Canada is calling on the National Farm Animal Care Council, the Canadian agricultural industry organization that establishes codes of practice, to amend its turkey codes.
All sick and injured birds should be provided with immediate treatment by a qualified veterinarian and turkeys should not be bred to grow so fast that they become crippled under their own weight, the animal-rights group says.
Jackie Wepruk of the National Farm Care Council said it was waiting for funding approval from the federal government to complete an overhaul of its poultry code of practice. Once that funding comes through, the organization will look at making changes to the code based on the concerns raised by the video, she said.
Mercy for Animals Canada is also calling for video monitoring systems to be installed in all facilities that handle farmed animals and for the footage to be live-streamed on the Internet, a demand François admitted was a “long shot.”
By Laura Kane | http://www.thestar.com