MORONI, Sanpete County — A half-dozen animal rights activists have been charged with breaking into a Moroni turkey plant and stealing a bird in January 2017.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed criminal charges of burglary and poultry theft, third-degree felonies, against members of California-based Direct Action Everywhere.
The group in November released video shot over the course of nine months that it claims shows deplorable conditions at the farm. The team said it took a young sick turkey, named it Abby, and brought it to a veterinarian.
A statement from Direction Action Everywhere said the activists are being targeted for having compassion for a dying bird.
The farm did not return a message for comment Thursday evening.
Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels said the group deprived farmers of their hard work when they broke in and stole at least one bird.
“They came here to Sanpete County and entered into turkey shed buildings belonging to turkey farmers in this area and essentially turkey-napped turkeys,” Daniels said.
The group believes the charges are a reaction to its investigation alleging mistreatment of sick animals housed in cramped, unclean quarters.
“What they are concerned about is the video footage and the photographs that we exposed to the public,” activist Wayne Hsiung said.
Such recordings can no longer be prosecuted under a Utah law that made it a misdemeanor to secretly film inside farms and slaughterhouses. A federal court last year ruled the 2012 law unconstitutional.
The six activists are due in court June 13.
Norbest suspended its contract with the farm over similar concerns before the video’s release, CEO Matt Cook previously said.
Contributing: Sam Penrod
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that one of the activists was charged only with burglary. He also was charged with theft. The earlier version also said the charges stemmed from a January incident. The break-in allegedly happened in January 2017.