Pennsylvania Farmers Charged With Animal Cruelty After Video Shows Them Kicking, Beating Turkeys

by Alex Falls
Nick David / Getty

Eleven people working for one of the nation’s leading producers of turkey have been charged with animal cruelty. According to Pennsylvania state police, the individuals were caught on video beating turkeys at several farms including kicking and stomping the animals.

The charged workers were responsible for capturing and caging turkeys that were destined for the slaughterhouse. Pennsylvania State Police said they launched a probe into Plainville Farms in response to a complaint from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal rights group reported sending an undercover investigator to the farm to evaluate its marketing claims of being “animal welfare certified.”

PETA’s investigator worked with the Plainville Farms crew for three weeks. During their investigation, they captured graphic video evidence that showed the workers mistreating the birds.

“Every night, at every farm the crews worked at, these men threw turkeys. Viciously kicked and stomped on them. And killed them in the most rampant, top-to-bottom display of cruelty to farmed animals we’ve ever seen,” said Dan Paden, a PETA vice president.

Mistreatment of Turkeys Leads to Company Change

The mistreatment was widespread and took place at various farms. The video was captured at farms in Chester, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Perry and Union counties, police said. A total of 139 charges have been filed. Additionally, six felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and 76 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. PETA said it’s unaware of a cruelty-to-livestock case that would involve more criminal counts.

“This was a lengthy, detailed investigation that involved reviewing a lot of evidence at multiple locations,” said Cpl. Michael Spada, a state police animal cruelty officer.

Plainville advertises its turkey products as “humanely raised” in a “stress-free environment.” However, the company was previously suspended from the Global Animal Partnership and its animal welfare and labeling program. Plainville products instead come with an “Earthwise” seal. Which is a term the company trademarked in 2008. Currently, their products are not independently labeled.

Later, the company’s chief executive officer, Matt Goodson, said Plainville has a “zero tolerance for anything like the alleged actions of these former employees.” In response to these allegations, Goodson also said the company fired the employees implicated in the abuse. They also began using stationary and body cameras during the catching process and took other measures to prevent a recurrence.

“Plainville remains committed to the highest welfare standards for our animals and customers. We also believe that it’s important for incidents like this to come to light. It challenges our industry to do better,” he said in a statement Thursday.

The company’s turkey products are sold at supermarket chains including Publix and Wegmans. Plainville employs about 600 workers and slaughtered about 90 million live pounds of turkey last year, according to WATT PoultryUSA, a trade publication.