Two days before Thanksgiving, an animal rights group released an undercover video Tuesday that it says shows filthy and deadly conditions at a western Minnesota farm, where 25,000 hens are said to be housed.

The three-minute video by Compassion Over Killing, shot over a two-week period this year by a plant worker with a hidden camera inside Hargin Inc., shows turkeys in tight quarters with injuries to their faces, feet and wings. It also reveals workers tossing the turkeys about in order to get to their eggs or have them artificially inseminated at the five-shed facility 7 miles southeast of Starbuck in Pope County.

The narration over the video also alleges that the turkeys often get tangled in their cage mechanisms and are badly injured, then denied veterinary care and left to die. Some develop infections in the wounds on their feet and have difficulty walking, the narration continues.

The narrator also says that artificial insemination is needed because the birds are too obese "to mate naturally."

After reviewing the video, Hargin owner Randy Hagen said his farm "strives to comply with all aspects of the National Turkey Federation's animal care guidelines, including guidelines for humanely euthanizing turkeys that are injured or sick."

He added, "Where that has not happened, we will thoroughly retrain employees to ensure the guidelines are followed in the future. If we discover willful violations of the guidelines, we will take appropriate action."

Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, reviewed the video and said, "It appears that some of the birds were injured severely enough that they should be euthanized.

"It is difficult for me to comment with great certainty because I don't have specific information of how recent the injuries occurred and whether or not the birds were euthanized. [The association] will continue to work with all of our members on proper animal care practices including when to euthanize."

Founded in 1995 and based in Washington, D.C., the nonprofit Compassion Over Killing has been conducting numerous undercover investigations in an effort to expose what it says is animal abuse in the agricultural industry. Some of its work has led to prosecutions in various states.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482