The Intercept

This article includes graphic images and video some readers may find disturbing.

SIX ANIMAL RIGHTS activists are facing felony charges, filed on Wednesday by a Utah prosecutor, stemming from an undercover investigation into abusive conditions on a large turkey farm. The criminal complaint includes two felony theft charges that carry possible prison terms of five years each.

The six defendants include Diane Gandee Sorbi, 62, a retiree who spends most of her time volunteering at animal shelters; Andrew Sharo, 24, a Ph.D. student in the biophysics program at Berkeley; and Wayne Hsiung, a lawyer and lead investigator.

In January 2017, the six activists entered a farm in Moroni, Utah, that supplies turkeys to Norbest, a large company that aggressively markets itself to the public as selling “mountain-grown” turkeys who are treated with particularly humane care. Its marketing materials feature bucolic photographs of Utah nature, designed to create an image that its turkeys are raised in fresh and healthy natural settings, accompanied by assurances that its “practices are humane” and ethical, “with the health and comfort of the birds of paramount importance.”

What the activists found at the farm was something radically different: tens of thousands of turkeys crammed inside filthy industrial barns, virtually on top of one another. The activists say the animals were suffering from diseases, infections, open wounds, and injuries sustained by pecking and trampling one another. Countless chicks and adult turkeys were barely able to stand, or were lying in their own waste, close to death.

They also say that, as a result of the filth in these barns, hepatitis and other viral diseases were rampant and spreading throughout the flock, which in turn caused the farm to put various antibiotics, including penicillin, into the barns’ water supply.

The mass or indiscriminate use of antibiotics by industrial farms poses a severe danger to the public health, since it breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the human food supply. Between 70 to 80 percent of all antibiotics administered in the United States are given to farm animals as part of the agricultural industry.

Norbest expressly promises that its farms do “not use, nor does our drug policy permit, the routine use of medically important antibiotics.” (While the company admits that conditions at the farm were abusive and unacceptable, it denies that hepatitis was rampant and that antibiotics were indiscriminately administered.)

The activists, all volunteers with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, filmed and photographed the conditions inside the farm. “In my 20 years of investigating animal abuse, I’ve never seen conditions this horrifying at a corporate farm,” Hsiung told the Intercept. “We saw animals that looked dead but were still breathing; animals, languishing, who had virtually been pecked to death; many animals collapsed on the ground in their own feces and filth. It was as bad as it gets.”

The activists also rescued three turkeys who were clearly suffering from extreme disease and injury and on the brink of death, part of a tactic known as “open rescue,” in which activists choose a symbolic handful of animals from industrial farms who are close to death, provide them with veterinarian care, and then publicly post film of their recovery at a shelter.

The three birds removed from the farm have no commercial value, because they were virtually certain to die within days, if not hours. DxE activists estimate that up to 25 percent of animals at industrial farms die before they can make it to the slaughterhouse due to the conditions in which they are kept.

In November 2017, DxE published video and photographic findings from its investigation of the Norbest-supplying farm. The publishing of the investigation was highly embarrassing to Norbest, as the materials received substantial local press coverage.

The Salt Lake Tribune, the largest paper in Utah, published a large articlewith a horrific photograph at the top, describing the conditions shown in the facility as “shocking.” It noted that “Norbest is one of the largest marketing cooperatives in the United States, selling turkeys raised by some 40 Utah farmers. Combined, it produces 5 million turkeys annually.”..Read More at

The Intercept