Investigation: Bab​​y Turkeys Electrocuted for Thanksgiving Dinner

This month, two turkeys were flown from Minnesota—the nation’s largest turkey-producing state—to Washington, DC, to receive a “pardon” from President Joe Biden. But what kind of farm did these turkeys come from? And what happens to the others, the more than 40 million turkeys killed each year for Thanksgiving in the United States?

A brave Mercy For Animals investigator recently went undercover inside two Minnesota factory turkey farms whose processor, Turkey Valley Farms, slaughtered an estimated 135 million pounds of live turkeys in 2022.

The heart-wrenching footage reveals charred baby turkeys tangled in electrical wire, birds with bleeding wounds denied veterinary care, and thousands of turkeys crammed into warehouses. 

The Beginning 

Our investigator witnessed days-old chicks roughly unloaded from trucks into massive dirt-floor warehouses. Denied nearly everything that is natural and important to them, some chicks desperately attempt to perch on electrical wires. These wires are connected to the “poultry trainer,” a machine located above feed lines designed to stop birds from roosting on feeding and watering systems. 

Our investigator documented baby turkeys tangled in these wires, some with charred heads or feet and apparently electrocuted. Workers were also painfully shocked by these trainers, showing just how powerful the electrical pulse is.

Other baby turkeys suffered horrendous infections, their eyes cloudy and bulging from their heads. Some had bloody wounds, while others struggled to stand on injured limbs. Babies who had flipped onto their backs and were too weak to right themselves were left to suffer and die. Our investigator also witnessed baby turkeys left in piles—some who were still alive trapped beneath the bodies of the dead. None of these injured birds received veterinary care. The investigator stated:

I notice some [turkeys] with swollen, pus-filled eyes, a white layer of film covering their vision; bent wings; crooked legs. They also have little nubby toes and beaks [from having the tips of them cut off soon after hatching]. I wonder if people know turkeys are pre-carved while still alive.

The Middle

To maximize profits, the industry breeds turkeys to grow so quickly that their legs are overwhelmed, and the birds often collapse under their own weight. Though the natural life span of a turkey is 10 years, through industrial animal agriculture’s unnatural breeding practices, turkeys reach “market size” in just weeks. 

As the farmed turkeys grow, they’re moved to different barns but are always crowded together. The undercover footage shows adult turkeys packed wall to wall in the warehouse. Because of their restricted movement, many birds sit in their own waste, which causes painful sores and infections. 

Many turkeys suffer organ failure, including heart attacks, and debilitating leg and joint pain. Some bleed from their untreated wounds and suffer without veterinary care. Multiple times the investigator reported severely injured or dying birds—one turkey, for instance, was featherless and shivering with open wounds—to the manager, who took no immediate action. 

The End

After the turkeys reach “market size,” they are rounded up and sent to slaughter. Our investigator witnessed birds being shoved and kicked onto the conveyor belts that load them into trucks. When the birds fell off the belt, they were grabbed roughly by the wings and hurled inside. Our investigator described the scene:

I watched the corralling crew as they kicked, threw, and dragged injured birds to load them onto the belt. One worker casually walked up to a tom [male turkey] and punched him in the face. The tom recoiled from the force. I felt as if I had just witnessed child abuse.

Farmed animals’ miserable ride to slaughter can take hours. Given no food or water and exposed to all weather conditions, many turkeys die before reaching the slaughterhouse.

After the turkeys arrive, they are shackled upside down by their feet, and their throats are cut open. Some birds are improperly shackled and not killed by the blade, which means many reach the scalding tanks alive and conscious.

Take Action

The power to make a difference for turkeys doesn’t lie just with the president—you can “pardon a turkey” by enjoying plant-based foods this holiday season. Do your part today. Pledge to enjoy plant-based holiday meals and spare a turkey