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July 3, 2024

Turkeys “tossed…like basketballs:” Court fails to hold major turkey producer accountable for animal abuse

Union County, PA – A Union County court has failed to hold major turkey producer Plainville Farms accountable for extensive animal abuse committed by its workers. Global animal protection organization Animal Equality and legal advocacy group Animal Partisan filed a complaint against the company following an investigation by PETA, which found workers on several Pennsylvania farms kicking, stomping, and throwing animals. The prosecution was supported at trial by regional law firm Thomas, Thomas, & Hafer LLP and attorneys at the PETA Foundation.

We are disappointed in the outcome of this case because this was not an isolated incident. These turkeys were subjected to cruelty at the hands of Plainville employees, and the law is clear that companies can be held liable for the acts of their employees. It is our opinion that the law did not prevail this time around.

–Maggie Marshall, Associate Legal Counsel for Animal Equality

The complaint was filed by Animal Equality and Animal Partisan after a PETA investigator was hired to work on Plainville “catching crews.” The investigator documented the workers abusing turkeys across multiple farms used by the company, including locations in Union County. 

Plainville Farms publicly claims their turkeys are “humanely raised” in a “stress-free environment.” However, according to unrefuted trial testimony, the workers repeatedly kicked birds and threw them by the neck or a single wing. One crew’s supervisor, Kevin Wagaman, was also documented engaging in the abuse on multiple occasions. The evidence established that PETA’s investigator “was routinely told” that he “was being too gentle with the birds” and would “have to kick them to keep the job.”

People who bought turkey from Plainville Farms had no idea that the company had slapped a ‘humane’ label on the birds who were shaken, kicked, and tossed around like basketballs, even used in simulated sex acts. PETA urges everyone to help prevent other animals from suffering by going vegan.

–Daniel Paden, PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis

As a result of the investigation findings, 12 of the workers were charged with cruelty to animals. Eight employees, including Wagaman, entered guilty pleas and were sentenced to probation, during which they were prohibited from working with animals. A ninth pleaded no contest. 

The prosecution in this case took a novel approach to the law by seeking accountability of Plainville Farms itself for allowing the animal cruelty. States like Pennsylvania allow for companies to be held liable for criminal acts. In fact, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General recently charged 21 separate businesses in a massive fraud scheme involving vehicle titles in December 2022. 

Despite the overwhelming evidence of animal abuse, the Union County court concluded that “Plainville Brands cannot be held liable for the actions of their employees” because, in part, no supervisors were notified of the abuse. However, trial testimony shows the investigator raised concerns about the workers’ treatment of the birds with his own supervisor, Wagaman, who directed the investigator to kick birds and later pled guilty to cruelty to animals.

Large companies often evade corporate criminal liability by pointing the finger at individual workers. This outcome  represents yet another example of a multi-million dollar agriculture business throwing low-level workers under the bus to avoid accountability for shoddy practices and mismanagement.

–Will Lowrey, Legal Counsel for Animal Partisan


Animal Equality is an international organization working with society, governments, and companies to end cruelty to farmed animals. Animal Equality works effectively for animals through investigations, corporate campaigns and legal advocacy in the United States, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and India.

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