SHANNON, N.C. (CBS) — A Chicago animal rights group went undercover at a North Carolina turkey farm, and what they found was shocking and severe enough to warrant the attention of police.

The Hoke County, N.C., Sheriff’s Department showed up at a Butterball turkey farm in Shannon, N.C., after an undercover worker representing Chicago-based Mercy for Animals was hired there and went undercover with a hidden camera.

The worker said she found abuse so horrific that authorities had to be notified. She captured video of what she said included workers throwing, kicking, dragging and beating turkeys at the plant. She also found turkeys suffering from bloody open wounds and infections, according to a news release.

“Where you see someone slamming a bird against the side of the transport truck, and I do know that was done out of very targeted aggression,” the undercover worker who shot the video told CBS 2, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “They were throwing them around and kicking them and stomping on them. All of the handling techniques that you see on tape were witnessed fully by Butterball management and were accepted by management as the easiest and fastest way to move those birds.

Mercy for Animals says the undercover worker saw farm employees “violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or into transport trucks in full view of company management.”

The worker also saw employees bashing live turkeys in the head with metal bars, leaving them to die slow, painful deaths from the resulting injuries.

Some birds were suffering from open sores, rotting eyes and broken bones, while others were covered in flies and living in their own feces without any access to food or water. They had lost many feathers and their skin and muscles had rotted and died, the release said.

Other birds were severely injured and disabled, and could not stand or walk. They were left to die without any veterinary care, because, the release says, “treating sick or injured birds was too costly and time consuming, as the farm manager explained to MFA’s investigator.”

“I definitely have had nightmares since I left the facility,” the undercover worker said. “I saw some things that I don’t think I will ever be able to forget.”

In response to the investigation, Butterball released a statement that reads in part, “Butterball takes these allegations very seriously and fully supports the efforts being made on the part of officials.”

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