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Turkey (Allegedly) Tortured by Students at Fraternity Drinking Party

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Originally Posted: December 30, 2012

Turkey (Allegedly) Tortured by Students at Fraternity Drinking Party

[Ed. Note: See August 2013 Update - Breaking 6 News Lawrence: Fraternity Turkey Torture]

FROM United Poultry Concerns (UPC)

ACTION

Urge Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson to conduct a thorough criminal investigation and, as findings warrant, to prosecute the student offenders to the fullest extent of the law. (See UPC’s letter following contact information.)

Urge the National Beta Theta Pi organization and the KU Interfraternity Council to investigate the complaint and discipline the KU Beta Theta Pi fraternity in keeping with findings of intentional animal cruelty at the drinking party. Urge adoption of a Fraternity Code of Ethical Conduct prohibiting the presence of nonhuman animals at all fraternity functions. The Code should also include enforceable standards of humane conduct for Beta Theta Pi and all fraternities. Animals should be banned from all fraternity functions. Violations should mandate expulsion of the fraternity from the campus and its parent organization.

Urge University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to adopt and enforce policies prohibiting and penalizing animal cruelty at The University of Kansas. Penalties should include expulsion of students and failure to graduate. Urge Chancellor Gray-Little to adopt a Code of Humane Conduct for all campus residents, showing the leadership needed to prevent animal cruelty in the future.

And/or better yet, make direct contact:District Attorney Charles Branson
Douglas County DA’s Office
111 East 11th St, First Level
Lawrence KS 66044
Office: 785-841-0211
Fax: 785-832-8202
districtattorney@douglas-county.com

Justin Warren, Director of Chapter Operations
Beta Theta Pi Foundation and Administrative Office
5134 Bonham Road, PO Box 6277
Oxford, OH 45056
Phone: 513-523-7591 (Justin Warren ext 264)
Fax: 513-523-2381
Justin.warren@betathetapi.org

IFC Executive Board
Interfraternity Council
University of Kansas
1301 Jayhawk Blvd
Room 424, Kansas Union
Lawrence, KS 66045
Phone: 785-864-4643
Ifcpr@ku.edu

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
Chancellor’s Office
The University of Kansas
230 Strong Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045-7518
Phone: 785-864-3131
Fax: 785-864-4120
chancellor@ku.edu

turkey rescue fraternity
Doris, a rescued turkey
Image by Lois Lifshutz

INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS

On Friday evening, December 14, 2012, University of Kansas fraternity Beta Theta Pi, in Lawrence, rented a turkey for a fraternity house drinking party. Eyewitnesses described fraternity members kicking in the cage in which the turkey was confined. After they broke the cage, the bird was chased, thrown like a football, and choked by the neck. The Kansas City Star reported 12/17/2012: “When the turkey’s wing snapped, and then its leg, the animal began screaming, witnesses said.”

Witnesses described the brutality they observed as “nauseating” and “horrible.” A band member at the scene begged the fraternity to let her rescue the turkey from the violence but was told it was none of her business. Police were told a fraternity member finally killed the turkey.

The KU Beta Theta Pi complaint is under criminal investigation. The National Beta Theta Pi parent organization has put the KU fraternity on suspension. KU fraternities are governed by the campus’s Interfraternity Council which will do the initial investigation using information from the police. The University of Kansas has influence over the Council. University Relations told Lawrence activist Judy Carman yesterday, “We’re not going to let this go away.”

Kansas Cruelty to Animals Statute 21-4310 defines Cruelty to Animals as “Intentionally killing, injuring, maiming, torturing or mutilating any animal.”

A key word in this law is INTENTIONAL. The fact that the fraternity rented the turkey for a drinking party shows an intention to put this bird in a destructive situation likely (certain) to cause injury or death to this animal by intoxicated students. By all accounts, Beta Theta Pi members intentionally tortured, injured and killed this helpless, unoffending bird.

UPC’s Letter to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson followed by the Reply

December 20, 2012

District Attorney Charles Branson
Douglas County DA’s Office
111 East 11th St, First Level
Lawrence KS 66044
Via Email: Districtattorney@douglas-county.com

Dear Mr. Branson:

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I am writing to urge you to prosecute the individuals who reportedly abused and killed a turkey, “rented” for the occasion, at a University of Kansas Beta Theta Pi fraternity house drinking party December 14, 2012.

Eyewitnesses described fraternity members kicking in the cage in which the turkey was confined. After they broke the cage, the bird was chased, thrown like a football, and choked by the neck. “When the turkey’s wing snapped, and then its leg, the animal began screaming, witnesses said.”

A band member at the scene said she begged the fraternity to let her rescue the turkey from the violence but was told it was none of her business. Police were told a fraternity member finally killed the turkey.

Kansas Cruelty to Animals Statute Chapter 21-4310 defines Cruelty to Animals as “Intentionally killing, injuring, maiming, torturing or mutilating any animal.” The Statute defines “Animal” as “every living vertebrate except a human being.”

The fact that Beta Theta Pi rented the turkey for a drinking party shows the fraternity’s intention to put this bird in a destructive situation likely to cause injury or death to this animal by intoxicated students. By all accounts, fraternity members intentionally injured, maimed, tortured, mutilated, and killed the turkey. Witnesses described the brutality they observed as “nauseating” and “horrible.” As per your investigation, we want these students prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their vicious and unlawful behavior toward this helpless, unoffending bird.

Please advise how you intend to proceed with this case. We will gladly assist as needed. Turkeys are sentient animals with the same capacity for pain, suffering and fear as a cat or dog or pet bird. They deserve equal protection under the law from intentional cruelty.

Thank you very much for your attention. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405
Office: 757-678-7875
Email: Karen@upc-online.org

District Attorney’s Office Reply 12/20/2012

Dear Ms. Davis:

Thank you for contacting the office of District Attorney Charles Branson.

The Lawrence Police Department is conducting the investigation of the incident and it is estimated that it will take several weeks to complete. Therefore, as of this date, no facts about the situation have been presented to our office. We cannot speculate on what level of charges, if any, will be filed until we receive law enforcement’s investigative reports.

We take any allegation of animal abuse seriously and will pursue any charge we believe is supported by the facts of the case and I will relay your concerns to the District Attorney so he will be aware of them when the reports are reviewed.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with our office.

Sincerely yours,

Cheryl L. Wright
Assistant to the D.A.
Office of District Attorney Charles Branson
111 E. 11th St, Unit 100
Lawrence, KS 66044--2912
cwright@douglas-county.com
cheryl.wright@leo.gov

UPC’s Letter to Justin Warren of Beta Theta Pi’s National Organization followed by His Reply

December 20, 2012

Justin Warren, Director of Chapter Operations
Beta Theta Pi Foundation and Administrative Office
5134 Bonham Road, PO Box 6277
Oxford, OH 45056
Via Email: Justin.warren@betathetapi.org

Dear Mr. Warren:

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I am writing respectfully to urge you to investigate and, if your findings so warrant, to punish the Beta Theta Pi Chapter at The University of Kansas for abusing and killing a turkey, “rented” for a Beta Theta Pi fraternity house drinking party December 14, 2012.

We are pleased to learn you are taking this matter seriously by suspending the chapter and obtaining witness statements about the animal cruelty described at the fraternity house drinking party on December 14. We have written the Douglas County District Attorney urging prosecution of the students under the Kansas Cruelty to Animals Statute which defines Cruelty to Animals as “Intentionally killing, maiming, torturing or mutilating any [vertebrate] animal.”

Eyewitnesses described fraternity members kicking in the cage in which the turkey was confined. They described fraternity members breaking the cage, chasing the bird, throwing the bird like a football, and choking the bird’s neck. The Kansas City Star reported 12/18/2012: “When the turkey’s wing snapped, and then its leg, the animal began screaming, witnesses said.”

Witnesses described the brutality they observed as “nauseating” and “horrible.”

The fact that Beta Theta Pi rented the turkey for a drinking party shows the fraternity’s intention to put the bird in a destructive situation certain to cause injury or death to this animal by intoxicated fraternity members.

Please take immediate steps to prevent future animal abuse by Beta Theta Pi Chapters. In addition to taking the strongest possible disciplinary action against the KU Chapter, please develop, circulate, and enforce a written Code of Ethical Conduct Prohibiting Animals at All Beta Theta Pi Functions. Violation of the prohibition should mandate expulsion of the chapter from the National Fraternity.

Your Mission of Developing Men of Principle for a Principled Life means at the very least developing men who protect defenseless creatures against abuse. In this case, the evidence is strong that Beta Theta Pi men intentionally set up a situation in order to taunt, injure, terrorize and kill a helpless, unoffending bird. Their conduct is despicable.

Please advise how Beta Theta Pi intends to handle this matter following your investigation. We will gladly assist as needed. Turkeys are sentient animals with the same capacity for pain, suffering and fear as a cat or dog or pet bird. Please punish the KU Chapter and formulate and enforce a Code of Ethical Conduct Prohibiting Animals at all Beta Theta Pi functions. In addition, please develop and inculcate standards of humane conduct toward animals for Men of Principle of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity.

Thank you very much for your attention. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405
Office: 757-678-7875
Email: Karen@UPC-online.org

Justin Warren’s Reply 12/21/2012

Ms. Davis,

I was unable to reach you via phone this morning; however, I am more than happy to provide a response.

First off, I wanted to thank you for your outreach and please know that we appreciate and share in your concern. Let me assure you that Beta Theta Pi General Fraternity takes these allegations very seriously. At this time, we have suspended the chapter’s activities pending a complete and thorough investigation. Our goal is to determine what members were primarily responsible for the actions and to what extent the rest of the chapter participated in bystander behavior. From there, we will be able to have a clear path forward on how to handle the chapter and the individuals involved.

Please see the attached statement issued on behalf of the undergraduate chapter, which acknowledges the General Fraternity’s suspension of chapter activities.

In addition, the following statement was provided to the undergraduate chapter’s leadership as a part of the official action to suspend all chapter activities pending the ongoing investigations:

“Beta Theta Pi prides itself on being an organization that holds its members to the highest standards of personal and group conduct. The risk management policy and other rules and regulations of the General Fraternity, the University and the state of Kansas provide the framework for those standards. In light of the recent incident at the chapter’s semester-end formal dinner and dance, the chapter’s ability to operate in the constructs of those regulations has been called into question.

It is expected that the General Fraternity and the Alpha Nu chapter will coordinate an initial investigation to determine what occurred the evening of the incident. Further, we expect that the chapter will comply fully with University and local officials during their investigations. All chapter activities are suspended until a complete investigation has been completed.”

I think a number of the ideas that you have presented are good and will certainly be remembered going forward. Without a doubt, you can safely assume that no animal will ever be involved in the Turkey Pull or any other event ever again with the KU chapter. Moreover, we are looking into how many other instances of live animals may be found in our other chapters to determine how to make sure the lesson we are learning here carries over to all Beta groups.

If the allegations do turn out to be true, our top priority will be to hold the individuals directly involved with the actions responsible. Further, we will continue to evaluate the chapter’s ability to self-govern and determine how to best rectify the situation with the chapter as well as educate our group at KU, and perhaps even the Greek or student bodies as a whole on this matter in attempts to prevent it from ever happening again. I have heard of your organization a few times from individuals calling our office regarding this matter … Are there resources, presentations or tactics that you all use to educate the public on these matters? If so, I would be interested in learning more about them and how we might be able to incorporate them into our future dealings with the KU chapter.

We will continue to work diligently to make sure appropriate parties are held accountable and we appreciate your patience as this process unfolds.

Sincerely,
Justin  


Thank you for everything you do for animals!


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