It appears that last month’s sheriff’s raid of a North Carolina Butterball turkey breeding facility was compromised by a leak. When sheriff’s deputies stormed Butterball’s Shannon, North Carolina plant on December 29th, the company apparently knew the cops were coming—and had ample time to conceal evidence of cruel farming practices. County prosecutors now believe Butterball officials were warned at least five days in advance that a criminal investigation was underway.
Last Friday, the Hoke County Sheriff’s Department obtained a warrant to examine the phone records of a top official with the state Department of Agriculture. Phone record search warrants were also signed for two high-ranking Butterball employees.
How did law enforcement learn about this alleged cruelty cover-up? They found out about it through a jaw-dropping display of arrogance and stupidity on the part of Butterball’s management. Butterball officials apparently thought the DA’s office would behave like a bunch of good old boys, and divulge information about a confidential criminal investigation. Not only did the DA’s office keep quiet, they’re now mounting a serious effort to determine whether one or more state employees illegally tipped off Butterball about the sheriff’s raid.
We see it all the time: the cover-up ends up being punished far more severely than the crime. Right now there are all sorts of unanswered questions. But it could well be that at least one official with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture aided and abetted Butterball’s criminal mistreatment of animals. If that turns out to be the case, Mercy For Animals’ Butterball cruelty investigation will have yielded an outcome unprecedented in the animal protection movement’s history.