A video released by an animal rights group on Tuesday claims to show horrific abuse of turkeys at West Virginia farms operated by major global poultry grower Aviagen Inc.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the video, which includes workers stomping on turkeys' heads and twisting their necks to kill them, was shot by an undercover investigator who worked on the companies' farms for more than two months.
The undercover worker, who was not identified, described stifling, dusty barns where the animals were kept and caught video of several workers killing turkeys, slamming them into metal cages and bragging about previous abuse of the animals.
A company official told The New York Times that they "condemn the abuse of any of the animals in our care and will take swift action to address these issues." They said they would investigate the allegations, which could lead to firing employees who were involved.
A call Wednesday morning to the Alabama headquarters of Aviagen North America was not immediately returned. A call to subsidiary Aviagen Turkeys Inc., in Lewisburg, W.Va., also was not immediately returned.
PETA filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday alleging animal cruelty, according to the Greenbrier County Sheriff's Department.
In West Virginia, felony animal cruelty can be punished by one to three years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Norfolk, Va.-based PETA campaigns most years against the practices of turkey growers before Thanksgiving and encourages Americans to find vegetarian substitutes for the bird, such as tofu. The video showing the turkey abuse was posted on PETA's Web site.
In 2004, PETA carried out a similar undercover video sting in West Virginia against Texas-based Pilgrim's Pride at the company's Moorefield plant.
The company fired 11 employees and provided animal cruelty training throughout its North American operations after that, but a Hardy County grand jury in 2005 refused to indict any of the workers involved.