SALT LAKE CITY >> Two animal-rights activists disrupted the Utah governor’s Thanksgiving pardoning of a turkey Tuesday, rushing the podium and shouting as the CEO of a turkey plant spoke to a crowd of mostly children.
The two men rushed past Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the 40-pound turkey named “Grateful” sitting placidly on a table nearby, demanding to speak to the CEO and shouting “Show us all the barns!”
Herbert’s security detail restrained the men and state troopers escorted them away from the afternoon ceremony in Salt Lake City.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Todd Royce said the two unidentified men were not arrested but cooperated with troopers and left the Capitol.
The men were demonstrating a day after activists released undercover photos and video showing injured, cramped, and diseased birds at Norbest turkey plant in Moroni.
The group Direct Action Everywhere said the images and including documents showing animals with hepatitis and tumors were horrific.
Norbest president and CEO Matt Cook said in a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune that the images were “disturbing” and said the company’s team had asked farm to correct violations in the past.
Cook, who was speaking when the men rushed the stage today, said immediately afterward that “despite what some people may think, we have very clear animal care policies and our growers work very hard to adhere to those.”
Herbert did not comment on the incident when he took the stage.
Paul Edwards, a spokesman for the Republican governor, said in a statement that Utah expects farmers to meet the highest safety and humane standards.
“It’s unfortunate that people want to disrupt a fun tradition,” Edwards said, “but, nonetheless, we appreciate that there are passionate feelings about the serious concerns that have been raised.”
Edwards added: “Norbest has assured us that they have proactively addressed these issues prior to the publicity they have received, and we will be monitoring their progress closely.”