District Attorney Won't Bring Charges In Butterball Video Case

A district attorney says he will not bring charges of animal cruelty against Butterball employees who were seen on video stomping and kicking turkeys. This as an animal rights group calls the decision "extremely troubling".

Ernie Lee, who is the D.A. for Onslow, Jones, Duplin and Sampson counties, says there is not sufficient evidence to proceed with any criminal charges.

Last month, Mercy For Animal released video that they say was recorded at Butterball facilities in Onslow, Lenoir, Duplin and Sampson counties.

Lee said he met with the animal rights group last month and discussed their investigation and applicable North Carolina law. The D.A. says he then assembled a group of five assistant district attorneys in the counties involved to review the video and documents.

In making his decision, Lee says the video showed workers attempting to move turkeys into trucks. He says the overall majority of the turkeys were moved without any physical contact from the workers, but in the cases where workers had to step in, they "did not appear to attempt to wound, injure or torment the turkeys". He said the worker contact did not appear to be "egregious or malicious in nature".

Mercy for Animals' executive director says Lee's decision shows the need for stronger animal protection laws in North Carolina. "Turkeys, and all animals, deserve to be treated humanely during their lives, even if they are ultimately slaughtered for food," said Nathan Runkle.

Runkle says his group is now considering civil action against Butterball.