May 5, 2007
Dear Mr. Runkle:
I have viewed most of the video for which you sent the link. There is no question at all that the manner in which the turkeys and chickens were treated was cruel; characterizing it as vicious would not be wrong. None of what I saw could be construed as "standard operating procedure" that was part of normal animal handling routine for farmed animals. In other words, it was completely unnecessary to get the job done and, in many states, would be considered a violation of applicable animal cruelty laws.
Here is a summary of the most blatant violent acts or cruel conditions I observed:
- in general, the handling was extremely rough and brutal and was causing stress and injury to the birds; in at least one case, a worker was pulling on the head of a turkey who was stuck inside a container of some sort; the worker pulled violently and repeatedly, almost certainly causing pain from this handling; it is likely that non-lethal (therefore, not ameliorated) disruption of cervical vertebrae occurred, adding to the pain; there was no evidence that any worker I viewed had any concerns for the animals or their welfare
- a worker was punching shackled turkeys as they moved by him; this had no functional value and was simply gratuitous violence
- workers were forcing their hands into the cloaca (vent) of shackled chickens, apparently to remove eggs which were within the reproductive tract; I do not know if removal of eggs prior to slaughter is considered a normal procedure; nevertheless, there was excessive force which would cause moderate to extreme pain for the chickens (stretching of the tissues and putting pressure on the legs pinned in the shackles)
- workers were throwing turkeys high into the air in order to get them back on the shackling platform; sometimes, the turkey would hit the metal side and fall back onto the floor; in any case, this type of brutal handling could cause serious injury including broken legs or wings, or contusions to body parts, resulting in substantial pain; turkeys of the breed I observed cannot fly, so their fall onto the floor or platform would not be mitigated by flapping of wings as might be the case with chickens
- there were numerous injured birds, shackled, on the floors or in containers; many of the injuries were associated with what appeared to be blood on the birds, suggesting lacerations to the body; from the position of the limbs or behavior of the non-shackled birds, it appeared that there were broken legs and wings; one bird was upside down on the floor, struggling and probably severely injured (an uninjured turkey should be able to right herself/himself), while a worker continued with what he was doing, apparently oblivious to the suffering of the animal
Although I have seen a lot of cruel behavior towards nonhuman animals, what I witnessed in the video is about the worst. It is my hope that you will be able to file cruelty charges against the people and company involved. If you need an expert witness to testify if this comes to pass, I would be glad to be involved, my schedule permitting.
If it is desirable, I can send you a paper letter on university letterhead, providing my findings. In any case, you may use anything I have written without asking further permission. I provide my credentials below.
With reverence for all life,
Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine
University of California
P.O. Box 25
Dilley, Texas 78017-0025 U.S.A.