PETA calls on County Attorney to pursue animal cruelty charges against Tony Downs Food Group

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Tuesday, Daniel Paden, Vice President of Evidence Analysis at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent Watonwan County Attorney Stephen Lindee an email, asking Lindee to pursue cruelty to animal charges regarding an apparent incident in February 2020 at Butterfield Foods, in which over 9,100 hens died after being left outside in below zero conditions. 

"I’m writing to request that your office (and the local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against Butterfield Foods Company and the workers responsible for leaving 25,867 chickens on three trailers in an open shed—as the wind chill plummeted to -32 degrees—at its slaughterhouse located at 225 Hubbard Ave. in Butterfield," read Paden's email to Lindee. "More than 9,000 of the animals died as a result. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which PETA just obtained via a public records request."

"According to the report, the animals were hauled from Ohio—arriving at Butterfield Foods beginning at approximately midnight on February 20, 2020—and were kept in an unheated, three-sided shed. At approximately 8 a.m., a federal agent found hens frozen to the metal cages on two trailers and observed that “[n]early every hen visible” on the bottom rows of one trailer was 'frozen solid',” continued the email. "The survivors were shivering and 'had almost no feathers'—suggesting that the chickens confined to these trailers were 'spent' factory-farmed, egg-laying hens. While the birds were held at Butterfield Foods, the temperature at the St. James Municipal Airport was between -8 and -17 degrees. At least 9,150 of the chickens from the three trucks were found dead, many of them frozen."

“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,” said PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “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.”

David Ross, Human Resources Leader at Tony Downs Food Group provided a statement on the behalf of Downs Food Group:

"The USDA has inspectors and veterinarians on-site, and we do ethical treatment of animal training with all of our employees and we comply with all the rules and regulations."