Henry Co., VA - Henry County Commonwealth's Attorney Bob Bushnell has asked state police to conduct an investigation of animal cruelty after last week's turkey truck accident on Route 220.
The decision comes after Bushnell received a letter from PETA Tuesday asking him to take a look into whether the animals were inhumanly treated.
Bushnell says he's gotten numerous emails from animal lovers as well.
"If any person took advantage of that opportunity to unnecessarily and gratuitously just for pure meanness, to cause injury, suffering to these birds, I want to find the evidence and determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges," said Bushnell.
Bushnell went on to say that people should remember this is just an investigation, and no charges have been filed.
PETA's letter to Robert Bushnell, Henry County commonwealth's attorney:
June 19, 2012
The Honorable Robert L. Bushnell
Henry County Commonwealth's Attorney
Dear Mr. Bushnell,
We hope this letter finds you doing well. This communication serves as a request for your office to investigate and, as appropriate, bring criminal charges against Monroe, N.C.–based Circle S Ranch Inc ("Circle S") and its employees. Circle S President Samuel Starnes can be reached at 704-764-7414. On June 14, 2012, several witnesses—who are available for interviews at your request—documented that Circle S and its workers allegedly crushed, threw, and fatally neglected turkeys near Ridgeway.
According to news sources, Lawrence Douglas Martin crashed a truck hauling 600 turkeys on U.S. 220 that day and was charged with reckless driving. Circle S personnel apparently did not arrive at the scene until nearly six hours later. (Please note that the company's headquarters is just three hours from the crash site.) When Circle S workers arrived, they allegedly rejected offers of water for the turkeys. Approximately 540 turkeys—piled on top of one another in transport cages and denied shade—evidently suffered and died eventually, including of what a veterinary technician at the scene suspected was heat-related stress.
Witnesses report that Circle S workers jumped onto live birds to pull—by the neck—others out of coops and reportedly dropped birds 10 feet to the ground. Circle S employees were also seen throwing turkeys against the side of a truck, striking the birds' heads against coops, and causing the birds to fall 4 feet to the pavement. Turkeys missing limbs and others whose internal organs protruded from their bodies were reportedly denied care and even euthanasia to alleviate their suffering and were instead tossed onto a truck for a three-hour haul. Other injured or ill birds—including one seen convulsing, whom a worker allegedly tossed to the ground—were evidently piled up along with dead turkeys. Circle S workers reportedly failed to confirm that turkeys were dead before dropping them into a dump truck.
Virginia Code § 3.2-6570 prohibits persons from ill-treating turkeys, denying them drink or emergency veterinary treatment, hauling them if it produces unnecessary suffering, and permitting others to abuse turkeys. None of this conduct is consistent with the turkey industry's accepted agricultural practices (attached), which require that turkeys be supported when put into—not thrown against—coops and that injured turkeys be euthanized and confirmed dead before being disposed of. We hope you agree that these allegations merit criminal investigation. Thank you for your time and consideration. I can be contacted at 607-258-0024 or DanP@peta.org.
Dan Paden, Senior Research Associate
Cruelty Investigations Department