Lindee declines prosecution for alleged Butterfield Foods incident

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Last Wednesday, Watonwan County Attorney Stephen Lindee stated that he would be declining prosecution for an alleged incident at Butterfield Foods in February of 2020.

“I have reviewed the information provided to me by a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) with respect to the discovery of approximately 9,150 frozen chickens in three trailers outside of the Butterfield Foods facility in Butterfield, Watonwan County, Minnesota, in February, 2020. I am declining prosecution for a variety of reasons,” read the press release from Lindee.

Lindee listed three separate reasons as to why he would be declining prosecution.

“1. No names are provided, so I do not know who the witnesses or suspects are,” read the statement. “2. There is no indication as to whether these deaths occurred via negligent or intentional acts, or who committed those acts.

“3. It appears from the document that somebody at Butterfield Foods spoke to the supplier of the chickens about leaving the vents open on the trailers as they traveled from Ohio (where the temperatures were much warmer) to Minnesota (which was dealing with subzero temperatures). It is indicated in the document that the supplier would close the front vents when they send the next shipment of chickens. “The establishment,” which I assume to be Butterfield Foods, said they would discontinue using the supplier if closing the vents did not remedy the issue.”

“In sum, there is insufficient information and evidence to pursue criminal charges,” concluded the release. “This decision does not discount the concerning circumstance of 9,150 chickens freezing to death. It simply reflects an analysis of the evidence provided.”

PETA’s Vice President of Evidence Analysis Dan Paden sent a letter to Lindee back on April 13, informing him of the alleged incident at Butterfield Foods.

PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch also released a statement on the incident.

“Many hens froze solid, and the survivors were almost featherless, suggesting that they were discarded after being worn out as egg-laying ‘machines’ before reaching this subzero hell,” read the release. “Abandoning these birds, who were already in wretched condition, to die in agony warrants a criminal probe—and because this systemic cruelty is typical of the meat industry, it’s also why PETA advocates for vegan eating.”

In response to Lindee’s release, PETA once again urged Lindee to do his due diligence.

“PETA hopes the prosecutor will want to do his due diligence before reaching a final decision in this case, so we’ve encouraged him to speak with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal witness who uncovered this horror, and the slaughterhouse management and staff who know why thousands of birds froze solid in subzero temperatures,” read a statement from Paden. “Those responsible for their terrifying deaths must be held accountable. Imagine if these were dogs—would the facility be given a free pass?”