New investigation exposing cruelty in the turkey industry will make you rethink Thanksgiving dinner

Was your Thanksgiving turkey’s life stuffed with misery? 

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 21, 2023) — Ahead of Thanksgiving, Mercy For Animals has released an undercover investigation of two farms in Minnesota — the nation’s top turkey-producing state — exposing the routine cruelty that turkeys endure in the meat industry. Certain to make Americans rethink their holiday feasts, new high-quality footage captures the grim, unnatural life cycle of turkeys raised for meat and the unrelenting torment they face from hatching to slaughter. 

Turkeys in factory farms have little to be thankful for, as they never know their mother’s love or feel sunlight on their backs or grass beneath their feet. 

The investigator’s footage documents a litany of horrors consumers never see: 

— Turkeys raised in unnatural conditions, crammed by the thousands into windowless warehouses.
— Baby turkeys left in piles, some struggling to breathe as they lie trapped under the dead.
— Turkeys with painful eye infections, leg or wing injuries, head bruising, slashes to their skin, and bleeding wounds denied veterinary care.
— Baby birds left on their backs, unable to right themselves (“flip-overs”) or dying of apparent sudden cardiac arrest (“round heart”).
— Chicks caught in electrical wires placed where they instinctively try to perch, some electrocuted or suffering burns on their heads and feet. These “poultry trainers” sometimes shock workers too.
— Birds shoved and kicked onto conveyor belts that load them into trucks headed to the slaughterhouse, roughly grabbed by the wings and hurled inside when they fall off the belts.

The investigator reported severely injured or dying birds — one turkey, for instance, was featherless and shivering with open wounds — to the manager multiple times. The investigator also documented drafty barns more than 60 years old in below-freezing temperatures with open-flame heaters hanging from chains. Some baby turkeys got stuck in gaps in the barn wall and froze to death.

“Everything the investigator filmed would likely be considered standard practice in the industry; this is not a matter of a single factory farm operating poorly but a matter of systemic acceptance of blatant animal cruelty,” said AJ Albrecht, managing director of Mercy For Animals in the United States and Canada. “If consumers are disturbed by what they see in this investigation, they should spare a turkey by enjoying plant-based foods this and every holiday season.”

“The majority of the millions of turkeys raised in the United States each year experience very poor welfare throughout their shortened lives,” said Walter Sanchez-Suarez, an animal behavior and welfare scientist at Mercy For Animals. “Bred for rapid growth, these animals are prone to serious health problems. They are typically farmed in intensive systems that disregard their behavioral needs for the sake of increased profits.” 

Factory farming is one of the greatest causes of animal suffering, affecting most of the 80 billion land animals killed for food each year. 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. They grow so quickly that many suffer organ failure, including heart attacks, and debilitating leg and joint pain, often collapsing under their own weight. 

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, more than 45 million turkeys are brutally slaughtered for Americans to eat. But national consumption of turkey has declined over the past 25 years, according to the USDA, and each year more and more consumers opt for plant-based turkey-style roasts for their Thanksgiving tables. 

The president famously pardons a turkey each year, but every family can “pardon” their own turkey by choosing plant-based food instead. Given the variety of delicious ready-made roasts conveniently available in most supermarkets, plant-based holiday celebrations have never been easier — and more serious home cooks may even opt for one of several methods of preparing a plant-based “turkey” from scratch, such as a homemade seitan roast. 

Mercy For Animals’ ChooseVeg guide offers recipes, suggestions, and tips for choosing plant-based meals for every season. 

Notes to Editors

For more information or to schedule an interview with AJ Albrecht or Walter Sanchez-Suarez, contact Ronnika A. McFall at [email protected].  

Media Resources:

Link to the investigation website.

Mercy For Animals is a leading international nonprofit working to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system. Active in Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the organization has conducted more than 100 investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses, influenced more than 500 corporate policies, and helped pass historic legislation to ban cages for farmed animals. Join us at