RAEFORD: NC lawmakers question legality of undercover workers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

NC lawmakers question legality of undercover workers

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Undercover video shows an employee at Butterball's Raeford facility tossing turkeys onto a conveyor belt. (Mercy for Animals_ Undercover video shows an employee at Butterball's Raeford facility tossing turkeys onto a conveyor belt. (Mercy for Animals_

A new video of alleged animal abuse at Butterball's Raeford facility is raising red flags with lawmakers about the legality of working undercover.

An operative with Mercy for Animals obtained a job the Butterball's Raeford facility and documented what the organization called "abuses that would shock and horrify most Americans."

The video shows employee dropping baby turkeys into meat grinders while they appear to be still alive. The video claims that some of the animals would get stuck in machines while others were dropped on the ground and severely injured.

Mercy for Animals says the animals were not given pain killers prior to being macerated.

The video was shot over the course of 3 weeks, Mercy from Animals said.

  • Click Here to view the video **WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC**

"What we saw was horrific animal abuse ... Mercy for Animals immediately alerted local law enforcement officials," said Matt Rice, with Mercy for Animals. "They are currently investigating and considering animal cruelty charges."

Butterball says its own internal investigation of the footage shows the company "adheres with established and expert-approved industry standards for poultry handling."

"While experts agree the video does not depict any willful acts of negligence or mistreatment, Butterball does proactively search for continuous improvement opportunities and will provide additional training and education to hatchery associates on animal care and well-being policies," Butterball said.

The alleged abuse is not the first time the Butterball facility is Raeford has come under fire. In 2011, an undercover video shot by Mercy for Animals prompted a state raid resulting in animal cruelty convictions against five workers.

Those videos may not be permitted to be used in court cases, however, if a move in the General Assembly to prohibit undercover video catches on. Some lawmakers say posing as a worker to go undercover is employment fraud, and they are looking at ways to make it illegal to do that in North Carolina.

"That is wrong," said Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson). "It's employment fraud and I think they ought to be held accountable."

Jackson included a provision into Senate Bill 648 prohibiting employment fraud, which would stop whistleblowers from working undercover. He later removed that provision until he could find a better way to word it.

"We pulled it out to basically try and re-work it," Jackson said. "We've been looking at other states to see what they are doing, and ours was a little stronger than other states."

Mercy for Animals contends that undercover video is crucial to its mission.

The poultry industry's economic impact in North Carolina is nearly $13 billion annually, and the poultry industry alone creates 110,000 jobs in the state.


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Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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