RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Seven former employees of Tyson Foods were convicted Tuesday of 22 counts of animal cruelty documented by a videographer from a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.
The investigator, working for the nonprofit Compassion Over Killing, used a hidden camera to document cruelty to chickens inside several broiler breeder facilities in three Virginia.
He later turned his footage over to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring who prosecuted the cases in Mecklenburg and Buckingham counties.
Herring and his Animal Law Unit secured three other convictions in June in Mecklenburg and Lenunburg counties related to similar abuses at a Tyson breeder farm.
“Mistreatment of animals is both inhumane and illegal,” Herring said in a statement announcing the convictions on Tuesday. “I’m glad to see the perpetrators of these crimes brought to justice.”
The Compassion Over Killing investigator got a job at the breeder farms and began videotaping his co-workers as they kicked, threw and otherwise abused chicken by putting plastic rods through their nostrils so that they would starve, and stepping on their heads.
According to a release from Compassion Over Killing, the employees in the video admitted their actions were inhumane, and that they could face criminal convictions if these actions are ever made known.
The organization said the prosecutions in Virginia were the first ever undertaken related to chickens raised for meat.
After viewing the video, officials at Tyson foods ordered the retraining of all of its poultry workers on the company’s animal welfare policies.
It also announced that it would open the video streams of activities at all 33 of its poultry facilities to an outside company to confirm on an ongoing basis that no animal cruelty is taking place.
Last year, Christine Daugherty, a senior Tyson executive, said she found the employees’ actions in the video “disgusting.”
“Animals in our care deserve to be treated humanely. It’s our responsibility to ensure that everyone who works for our company behaves properly. Our management team is dedicated to continue fostering a culture of proper animal handling,” Daugherty said.
All of those convicted were barred from working with animals for a period of one to five years. Some were also sentenced to jail time.