Late last year, some factory-farm employees got their pink slips from Aviagen Turkeys, Inc. in response to PETA’s undercover investigation, which documented that workers were breaking turkeys’ necks, stomping on their heads, and shoving feces and feed into turkeys’ mouths.
Then, in February, a grand jury handed down 19 indictments, including 11 felony charges, against three former Aviagen workers, marking the first time in U.S. history that factory-farm employees have faced felony cruelty-to-animals charges for abusing birds.
Fast forward: Two of the three ex-employees, Scott Alvin White and Edward Eric Gwinn, recently pleaded guilty to cruelty charges. On June 8, White was sentenced to serve one year in jail—the maximum period permitted by law! Today, Gwinn was sentenced to serve six months’ home confinement—the maximum period permitted by law—on each count, concurrently, and is banned from living with, owning, and working with animals for five years. The case against the third ex-employee, Walter Lee Hambrick, is pending.
Can’t get enough? In September, a grand jury in neighboring Monroe County, West Virginia, may well issue further felony indictments against White and Hambrick.
These historic victories by no means even the score for the turkeys who were punched and thrown or the many other birds who suffered when they were forced to watch as other turkeys were abused at Aviagen. After watching our undercover video, animal behavior expert Dr. Lesley J. Rogers stated, “It is now known that when social animals, like turkeys, see and hear other members of their species under stress or suffering physical injury, their levels of stress become elevated. Hence, the behavioural stress is widespread in the birds in the vicinity of those that have been injured and/or handled roughly.”
Still, these convictions will remind workers on other factory farms that if they don’t clean up their acts, PETA investigators (and the whistleblowers who tip us off) will have their eyes on them.
Written by Karin Bennett