Turkey farm workers charged with cruelty for allegedly kicking, stomping birds

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Animal cruelty charges were filed against 11 people, including some from York County, for alleged inhumane treatment of turkeys that included stomping, kicking and beating them.at seven farms located in central and southeastern Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania State Police brought charges against the defendants, who were employed by Plainville Farms to capture and crate turkeys at seven farms located in central and southeastern Pennsylvania so the birds could be sent to food processing plants. 

Cpl. Michael Sapda, animal cruelty officer in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in the Investigative Services Section, filed the criminal complaints against the defendants. The criminal complaints allege that the workers kicked, stomped and beat turkeys at farms in Chester, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Perry and Union counties. 

"This was a lengthy, detailed investigation that involved reviewing a lot of evidence at multiple locations," Spada said in a statement. "I'd like to thank the outside agencies for their involvement and Plainville Farms for their cooperation." 

The charges against the workers include six felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, 76 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and 57 related summary offenses. 

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FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2005 file photo, turkeys are seen at a turkey farm near Sauk Centre, Minn.  Bird flu has returned to Midwest earlier than authorities expected after a lull of several months, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, The highly pathogenic disease was detected in a commercial turkey flock in Meeker County of western Minnesota after the farm reported an increase in mortality last weekend. Tests confirmed the disease Tuesday evening. The flock was euthanized to stop the spread.  (AP Photo/Janet Hostetter, File)

The defendants are identified as Jason K. Turner, 22 and Bryiant O. Perez-Paez, 40, both of Hanover; Joseph Nunez Rosario, 41, of York; Francisco M. Lebron-Cruz, 39, of Thomasville; Bryce P. Washington, 26, Miguel Turi Cantellano, 65, and Juan Turi Baeza, 37,all of McSherrystown; ; Jose E. Turi Baeza, 29, of New Oxford; Kevin L. Wagaman, 49, of Fayetteville; Mitchell E. Buckley, 23, of Aspers; and Christopher S. McArdle, 37, of Gettysburg. Another individual involved has not been identified, according to a statement from Pennsylvania State Police. 

The investigation into the cruelty allegations began in August 2021 and resulted from a complaint filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). A PETA employee witnessed the actions of the turkey catchers. 

Plainville Farms CEO Matt Goodson said the company fully cooperated with the investigation and that the employees were fired after the allegations came to light. 

“For 100 years, Plainville Farms has been committed to setting the gold standard in animal welfare. At all times, Plainville management fully cooperated in this investigation and supported the authorities during this process,” Goodson said in a statement.  “Plainville has zero tolerance for anything like the alleged actions of these former employees.” 

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Goodson stated Plainville Farms implemented an internal investigation after the allegations came to light that included using outside animal welfare experts. 

The company also replaced catching employees with a third-party vendor providing catching services, Goodon said, and also reviewed and raised their animal welfare standards, education and information processes. 

The company is also utilizing stationary and body cameras during the catching process, Goodson stated, and a third-party animal welfare specialist reviews video footage and observes catching crews in the field. 

“Plainville remains committed to the highest welfare standards for our animals and customers.  We believe that it’s important for incidents like this to come to light in order to challenge our industry to do better,” Goodson stated. “We are grateful to the State of Pennsylvania and its law enforcement for joining us in taking action and holding the involved individuals accountable for their actions.”