With Thanksgiving on the horizon, Pennsylvania turkey producer charged with animal cruelty
In this image made from an undated video released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an employee at an undisclosed turkey farm in Pennsylvania grabs a turkey by its wings before throwing it. Twelve people working for Plainville Farms, one of the nation's leading turkey producers, have been charged with animal cruelty after state police said they were caught on video kicking, stomping and beating turkeys at several farms. | PETA via AP

NEW OXFORD, Pa.—Plainville Farms, a turkey processing company based in New Oxford, Pa., which is a major supplier to grocery chains such as Harris Teeter, Publix, and Wegman’s, has been charged as a major violator of animal welfare laws following an extensive criminal probe by Pennsylvania law enforcement.

The accusations are severe and shocking. A total of 141 counts, including six felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals, were recently issued by the Pennsylvania State Police over a six-county region. Twelve former Plainville Farms employees are charged with the abuse. This represents the largest number of animal cruelty charges in any factory farm case in U.S. history.

The conditions at Plainville Farms were exposed through video evidence obtained by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). An undercover PETA investigator was hired at Plainville Farms as a worker in 2021. While personally handling the turkeys humanely, the investigator witnessed and recorded atrocities performed by other employees and even management.

PETA also submitted a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Plainville Farms engages in false advertising by making claims on its packaging that turkeys on its suppliers’ farms are “humanely raised” in a “stress-free environment.”

The Plainville Farms workers charged were part of turkey catching crews. It was their job to arrive on individual farms and round up turkeys onto trucks destined for the processing facility. PETA gathered evidence showing that workers kicked and stomped on turkeys, including birds who were sick, injured, and unable to walk. After failing to break their necks, they left the birds to convulse and die in agony.

Instead of trying to stop this abuse, a supervisor joined in, kicking turkeys and berating the investigator for not doing the same.  Workers threw hens at one another like basketballs. An iron bar was also employed to hit turkeys. The PETA investigator worked a total of 11 overnight shifts over the course of 19 days and witnessed abuse on every shift at every farm.

Global Animal Partnership (GAP), which previously had awarded Plainville Farms a humane certification for its operations, has suspended that designation. The organization has made the following statement addressing the abuse:

“In August 2021, following the investigation by our third-party certifier, EarthClaims, LLC, Plainville Farms was suspended from the GAP animal welfare and labeling program. This suspension remains in effect, and Plainville Farms is not a GAP certified partner. GAP does not tolerate and unequivocally condemns the cruel treatment of any animal in our program.”

Despite that statement, PETA has been critical towards Global Animal Partnership’s humane certification program as being insufficient and misleading consumers.

According to a PETA podcast, GAP utilizes third-party auditors every 15 months for announced inspections—rendering monitoring ineffective. PETA has reported that, “Although GAP and its partners claim that their standards prevent abuse, PETA has found abuse and violations of GAP’s own standards at all eleven G.A.P.-certified turkey and pig farms that it has investigated.”

Plainville Farms partners with various Pennsylvania farms in raising the turkeys, but Plainville is responsible for rounding up and transporting the birds to their processing plant. As revealed, positive certifications from watchdog organizations do not always hold substance. Clear and transparent business practices are greatly needed, and sadly, severely lacking when it comes to factory farms.

A visit to Plainville Farms’ official website shows the company still touting its humane handling of turkeys, contrary to the disturbing evidence presented by PETA.  Simply stated, companies cannot be trusted with their policy statements and advertisements. If not for the diligence and hard work of outside investigators, abuse and suffering of poultry and livestock would continue indefinitely at many facilities.

Effectual monitoring is essential. PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden adds, “Nothing can take back the suffering that all these helpless and gentle turkeys endured at Plainville Farms, but these charges show other meat companies that cruelty has consequences.”

The Humane League, a global non-profit seeking an end to abuse and mishandling of animals raised for food, is also on the frontline attempting to hold producers accountable for illegal practices. Originating as a small grassroots group in 2005, it now has a worldwide presence.

The Humane League describes industrial agriculture, such as factory farms, as intensive farming of live animals and crops for mass production of food and food byproducts. The organization proclaims, “We started focusing on institutional change, holding companies to account.” Explaining that agriculture has become dominated by large-scale and multinational corporations, it adds, “Driven by profit, these food giants rely on practices that, by design, exploit and abuse animals, destroy natural habitats, and generate pollution and climate-changing emissions.”

The atrocities brought to light at Plainville Farms are only one of many examples of processing facilities ignoring animal welfare laws and solely focusing on profits. PETA and The Humane League largely consist of engaged, concerned citizens confronting industries who continue to mistreat animals, the land, and the environment. GAP was founded by the CEO of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey. PETA has repeatedly questioned the validity of GAP, claiming its certifications favor suppliers and marketing over consumers, and lack true and proper monitoring of conditions.

As the country moves into the holiday season, families will be coming together for meals and kinship. Let us not, however, forget the suffering inflicted by some companies which have ignored a humane path in the treatment of poultry and livestock. Whatever our individual food choices are, all conscientious consumers can choose to support only businesses which adhere to laws protecting humane conditions for all animals.


Anthony Mangos
Anthony Mangos

Anthony Mangos served with the United States Postal Service and is a lifelong union member. As a freelance writer he contributes regularly to various film and literary publications. He resides in Johnstown, Pa., but considers the world as his neighborhood.