Notes From the Field - "We Cut Those Parts Off"

Sometimes you hear about things happening to animals that you just can't believe. As investigators, we have a lot of those moments but they're more along the lines of "I can't believe I'm seeing this". These entries will share some of those experiences with you—moments where we had to shake our heads in dismay, fumble around frantically to press the record button or ask a number of follow up questions to figure out if what we were seeing and hearing was really as it seemed. Sadly, it always was.

I'll start the collection with an experience I had in the early days of my investigations that came to represent the prevailing attitude about farmed animals held by farmers, auction workers, drivers and shockingly, even veterinarians.

"We Cut Those Parts Off" - Storm Lake, Iowa

On a bitterly cold afternoon in late January, a colleague and I picked up and trailed a densely loaded turkey truck just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. We followed the truck for 4 hours to its destination–Sara Lee Foods in Storm Lake, Iowa. The truck was uncovered, exposing the turkeys to the frigid temperatures and icy winds. Many of the birds were in very poor shape with what appeared to be broken legs, ripped off digits and signs of frostbite on their heads and toes. A few turkeys appeared dead and some were crammed into a broken container. There was a large amount of blood on the ceiling of one of the cages. Many of the birds had badly soiled, feces-caked keels indicating that they had been too sick or injured to walk for some time before being loaded.

Once the trailer arrived at the plant the sun had gone down, lowering the temperature even further. Still, the turkeys were left on the truck un-tarped and unprotected for yet another 2 hours in the freezing cold.

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It was like we were speaking different languages.