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Why Won't Butterball Talk Turkey About the Claims of Abuse?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Ah yes. Thanksgiving is nigh upon us. You know what that means? The aroma in the kitchen, the sounds of the game, the clamor of family...and of course, the cries of abuse from PETA and their cronies. There is a Mother Jones story that has gone viral claiming terrible abuse to turkeys, calling people at Butterball names and footage that would make you vegan before the holidays. The odd thing is that Butterball's PR team has been quiet. 

The question: "Is this best practices when vitriol is hurled in your direction?" Here's the summary:

There's this activist group, Mercy for Animals, and their pet project ButterballAbuse.com. They have footage of workers at the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. plant kicking and throwing turkeys. Some rejects were even caught hitting the birds with metal rods. To some, this doesn't matter because when they get the bird, it's frozen. However, this is where the story gets good. Check out this email exchange between the writer (and MoJo senior editor) Kiera Butler and Butterball PR:
I got an away message from the first spokeswoman I tried, so I forwarded it along to someone else. Here's what I got back:
I hope you're well today. I received your note below from my colleague, Bridget.
Unfortunately, resources who are appropriate to answer these questions are limited this week and are unavailable to respond by your deadline.
I wrote back:
Okay, but it does seem like this week of all weeks would be a crucial one for answering these questions! I'd really like to include Butterball's input if at all possible.
No dice. The spokeswoman responded:
Thanks, Kiera. Due to scheduling, we just won’t be able to make it work. Re: the MFA allegations, I can share with you the company statement if you’d like let me know.
I wrote:
Okay. Can you at least tell me whether Butterball uses antibiotics, ractopamine, and/or other growth enhancers?
As the story points out and common sense would dictate, this is the same company that fields more than 12,000 home cooks calling their toll-free crisis hotline about to burn their turkey. Yet, no go for PR?! Like most companies in their field, the PR manager claims a "zero tolerance policy" against abuse. So why not address that in real time? Sure, the calls would start out as inflammatory, but there are simple ways to address those. Call the video heinous. Call the abuse terrible. Call on the watchdogs internally to investigate. 

However, two words in that "dialogue" were startling. 


To wit, Kiera enters the world of imagination and editorial, and who can blame her: 
No company statement, no answers on growth-enhancers, nada. Mind you, this is the same company that runs a fully-staffed hotline to tell you how to cook your turkey. The company's website boasts that "No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them." Except, it seems, when it comes to the turkeys themselves.
What would you do? Get your waddle in the story's direction or believe you can fly? (Okay, I'm sorry. I watched "Space Jam" last night and I went for it. Call my editor.) 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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