COK Investigation Update: Burying Birds Alive is Apparently Not a Crime in North Carolina

Written by Erica Meier

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Aug. 6 Update: A concerned North Carolina resident just launched a Change.org petition sending a message to authorities: “Burying animals alive is cruel and should be prosecuted.” Please lend your voice by signing it now!

“We’re gonna drop them in the pit just like they are… Mother nature takes care of the rest.”

That’s what our investigator was told—on hidden camera—by a long-time employee at Prince Poultry in North Carolina when asked about sick and injured birds about to be buried alive in a massive outdoor pit.

That’s also just part of COK’s evidence that was shared with local and state authorities in North Carolina earlier this year after our brave investigator painstakingly documented the miseries forced upon these birds raised for their meat. Our video, which was featured in an exclusive in-depth story on CNN, was filmed inside a factory farm in Harnett County that contracted with Pilgrim’s Corp., the second largest chicken slaughterer in the world.

This week, an agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation informed us that the Harnett County District Attorney Vernon Stewart “has decided at this time not to bring criminal charges in this case.”

In other words, chickens have so little legal protection in North Carolina, that intentionally throwing live and fully conscious birds into mass graves—where they may suffer for days before eventually dying from starvation or dehydration—is ignored by authorities.

While the state anti-cruelty code does exempt “lawful” poultry production, we’re not aware of anyone arguing that burying birds alive falls into that category. Instead, authorities simply chose to turn their backs on cruelty that would shock any compassionate person.

Pilgrim’s Corp. itself acknowledged the acts we caught on video are “unacceptable,” and “startling,” and the company promptly suspended its relationship with Prince Poultry.

Even the National Chicken Council isn’t defending the abuses we documented.

According to Meatingplace, an industry trade publication, “National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super said the lack of proper euthanasia and the throwing of birds are in violation of NCC’s Animal Welfare Guidelines.”

North Carolina’s lack of law enforcement action in this case is alarming. This blatant failure to enforce animal protection laws and bring justice to animals reminds us that it is not enough to merely uncover abuses and hope they are prosecuted.

Most importantly, each one of us can stand up for farmed animals every time we sit down to eat—simply by choosing vegetarian foods.

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