THE CON

By Leslie Goldberg

DxE’s Matt Johnson disrupts a Norbest turkey pardoning ceremony in Utah. He holds a photo of a nearly dead turkey found at a Norbest farm in 2017.

DxE’s Matt Johnson disrupts a Norbest turkey pardoning ceremony in Utah. He holds a photo of a nearly dead turkey found at a Norbest farm in 2017.

It’s a game played over and over again in the animal agriculture industry. It goes like this: First an undercover video of animal cruelty surfaces, often on social media; Second, if it’s individual workers abusing animals, they are fired and/or charged with animal abuse; Third, if it’s the whole farm with sickeningly abusive conditions, the parent corporation feigns horror and stops procuring animals from that particular “rogue farm.”

Animal agriculture washes its hands of the industry-wide travesty and points to “a few bad apples.”

Norbest Turkey, one of the country’s largest producers of turkey, was the subject of a nine-month Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) investigation this year. The parent corporation which is based in Utah, contracts with smaller farmers also in Utah to raise their birds. As is typical in industrial farming, the corporation provides the babies, the food, the specifications for the housing, (all for a price) and at the end of the growing season, picks up the ready-for-slaughter animals and pays the producer. The company boasts on its website, “Our production practices are humane, with the health and comfort of the birds of paramount importance.”

There was nothing healthy or comfortable at the Norbest farm investigated by DxE in Moroni, Utah. Investigators found thousands and thousands of turkeys packed shoulder to shoulder in filthy sheds with air so thick with particulate matter composed of feathers and dried feces, breathing was nearly impossible.

Video footage revealed starving turkeys cannibalizing their sick and injured compatriots; birds literally rotting to death; birds trapped in piles of feces; and birds with tumors and infections. DxE also found a document at the farm indicating that the turkeys had been dosed with penicillin to treat Perihepatitis, despite Norbest’s claims that they never use antibiotics critical for human health. Another document found at the farm indicated that 15% of the birds in one shed had died in a single week.

Following the media coverage of the investigation, which included the video footage and still photographs of the horrific conditions, Norbest issued a statement right on cue: “Our policy states, ‘Animal abuse in any farm will not be tolerated by Norbest Farms. Failure to abide by the Norbest Farms Animal Welfare policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including employment or contract termination and where appropriate, prosecution under applicable laws.’”

The corporation further stated, “We provide training and support to the farmers who join the Norbest family because topnotch animal care is important to us. That is why we regularly inspect every farm.”

The company claimed that the farm in question had already been cited for “violations” of Norbest’s standards and had been told to make corrections.”

DxE has documented conditions on dozens of farms raising different species of animals raised for food. The conditions are always the same, even when the farm in question claims to be “humane,” “sustainable” or “family-run.”  The investigators find filth, extreme over-crowding, sick and injured animals, dying animals. It appears that whenever humans are trying to make money off the backs of animals, the animals suffer. The profit motive trumps animal care every time and the excuses of these companies have become completely predictable. The story is starting to wear thin.  

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