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Thanksgiving

Farm that provides White House Thanksgiving turkey denies animal abuse allegations

An animal rights activist group is claiming that the Thanksgiving turkeys traditionally supplied to the White House every year to be pardoned by president have been raised in inhumane, “sickening” conditions.

In an alarming video released by activist group Direct Action Everywhere, titled “Her Face Is Half Gone,” animal rights volunteers appear to rescue injured and starving turkeys from the Humane Society-approved Jaindl Farms in Orefield, Pennsylvania, near Allentown — the same family farm that has provided the White House with its pardoned turkey for decades. Jaindl Farms also provides wholesale turkeys to Whole Foods, but a spokesperson with the grocery chain said, "We immediately contacted Jaindl Farms who confirmed that we do not source turkeys from the farm in this video. We only source turkeys from facilities that have third-party Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification."

The family who owns Jaindl Farms denies these allegations and has fought back against what it calls “a gross distortion of the facts” presented in the format of staged videos with an ulterior agenda.  David Jaindl published his own video of the free-range turkeys on his property shown in open-air barns and points to several third-party inspectors who have checked out the farm for any wrongdoing or poor conditions.

“We pride ourselves on animal welfare within our operation and are proud of our human treatment of animals,” Jaindl told The Daily Meal in a phone interview. “These pictures and videos are misleading. These people broke in in the middle of the night with flashlights on their head. The turkeys are naturally attracted to the light and gather around them. So now, it looks like the barn is a lot more crowded than it really is.”

He also explained that the “sick” turkeys featured in the video were in a hospital barn because they had been injured and had to be separated from other turkeys. In an accompanying video shot by his daughter, Jaindl showed how easy it was to make the turkeys crowd around a light source “because they’re curious.” The video then pans to a shot of the rest of the barn, which is entirely empty.

Direct Action Everywhere has responded to the angry backlash against their video by defending their actions:

“Regarding the supposed recovery barn: The investigators visited nearly every barn at Jaindl, so if the videos show ‘challenged turkeys’ then the entire farm is filled with ‘challenged’ - that is, sick and traumatized – turkeys,” representative Zach Groff said. “A tour of Jaindl or any other farm will selectively avoid showing the reality of the farm, so the investigators used the only means available to them to expose what is going on….there is scant supervision of even supposed ‘free range’ farms.”

Direct Action Everywhere, which labels itself as an activist group for the “total liberation of animals,” is not the first organization to publish secretly recorded videos of alleged animal abuse at livestock farms. The activist organization Mercy for Animals released multiple videos last year of inhumane conditions at chicken farms that provided poultry for national companies like Tyson. At the time, Tyson defended its animal practices.

The Daily Meal also spoke with veterinary inspector Dr. Sherrill Davison-- who is not affiliated with Jaindl Farms or any animal rights activist group-- at the University of Pennsylvania, who confirmed that she had visited the farm within days of the video’s release and found no cause for alarm.

“Looking at the facilities yesterday, the birds were very active, their feathers were clean, the environment was dry and had good ventilation, and they looked to be in excellent condition,” Davison told The Daily Meal in a phone interview. “When I get called into a farm usually right after one of these videos blows up, I go in with an open mind. I will let the owner know if something needs to be corrected. But in this case they really do take good care of the animals.”

Davison also explained that there was no way to trick or bamboozle inspectors after a damaging video was released.

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“If a person is not managing the birds correctly, they can’t possibly correct it within 24 hours; I would pick up on if it if something was wrong,” she said.

Jaindl Farms has not responded to questions of whether it will seek legal action for defamation and slander against the animal activist group.