Turkeys Left to Suffocate Upside Down at Cargill; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Dayton, Va. – Following a just-released U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing that turkeys suffocated to death after being shackled upside down at the Cargill Meat Solutions slaughterhouse in Dayton, PETA fired off a letter this morning to Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst calling on her to investigate and file applicable criminal charges against those responsible.

According to the report, on September 14 a federal official discovered that up to 40 male turkeys had been left hanging for up to 90 minutes with their legs clamped in the shackles typically used to convey birds through the slaughter line. Up to 10 of the birds had suffocated to death, and the survivors were gasping for air and flapping their wings so frantically that their bones had broken. Just five days later, an inspector found a distressed, gasping turkey with visibly broken bones trapped under a transport trailer’s tire. In the time it took the inspector to look for a staffer to assist, the bird died.

“If someone left dogs to die under a truck or hanging from shackles, they would rightly be facing criminal charges, and these turkeys were also living, feeling beings protected by law,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA is calling on the commonwealth’s attorney to investigate and bring appropriate charges and reminds everyone that the only kind meal is a vegan one.”

PETA points out that turkeys, chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do. The group is pursuing charges under state law because federal officials haven’t prosecuted any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of abuse and neglect such as those at Cargill Meat Solutions—the third-largest turkey-killing company in the U.S.—since at least 2007.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Garst follows.

January 24, 2023

The Honorable Marsha L. Garst

Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Dear Ms. Garst:

I’m writing to request that your office (and a local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against the individuals responsible for leaving turkeys hanging upside down to slowly suffocate to death—and fatally running over another turkey—at the Cargill Meat Solutions slaughterhouse located at 135 Huffman Dr. in Dayton. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached report, which the agency just made available to the public.

According to the report, on September 14, 2022, an FSIS inspector found up to 40 male turkeys hanging upside down by their legs from the shackles normally used to convey birds through the slaughter line. FSIS personnel discovered that these animals had been hung up in that manner approximately 90 minutes earlier—and then left that way as a work shift ended. Up to 10 of the birds had died “from secondary asphyxia due to hanging and unable to right themselves.” Several survivors were “gasping for air” and flapping their wings so rapidly that their bones had broken.

Five days later, FSIS staff found a turkey in “distress” and extending his neck to gasp for air, trapped by his legs and torso under a tire on a trailer used to haul birds. Two broken bones jutted from the bird’s right wing. An FSIS inspector immediately attempted to find Cargill staff to assist the bird “to no avail” and then discovered that the bird had died.

This conduct does not represent the otherwise-exempt “farming activities” and thus may violate Code of Virginia § 3.2-6570. Please note that FSIS’ simple report on the matter carries no criminal or civil penalties and doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for cruelty to animals. Thank you for your time and consideration and for the important work that you do.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

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