An employee at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm recently pled guilty to felony cruelty to animals. The employee, Brian Douglas, is one of six workers charged with animal cruelty after an undercover animal rights video was leaked to the press.
The North Carolina case comes in the middle of a contentious national debate over animal rights and property rights. For the past several years, animal rights groups (like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States) have been ramping up their undercover sting operations; sending activists armed with hidden cameras into factory farms to record instances of animal abuse and cruelty. This tactic was used particularly heavily in 2008’s Food Inc., a documentary that was searing critical of American agribusinesses.
In the wake of these videos, several state legislatures have sought to prevent or ban the creation and distribution of these types of undercover videos. Iowa and Florida, for example, attempted to make it a felony to photograph or videotape farms or agricultural production centers without express permission from owners.
Animal rights organizations have criticized these laws, arguing that they will only serve to hide or cover-up ongoing abuses. The North Carolina case appears to confirm these fears. The initial video, showing Douglas’s actions, sparked an investigation that eventually led to charges against five others. Groups like Mercy for Animals, which was responsible for this particular video, claims that these abuses are all too common and argued that attempts to limit independent investigation will only foster and encourage animal cruelty.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer