(US-mo) Animal abuse charges cloud egg factory's expansion plans
- NEOSHO, Mo. - (KRT) - Rick Bussey pointed to his steak fajita. The
dish was important to understanding just how unlikely it was that
Bussey - a painting contractor and cattle rancher - would find himself
at the center of a dispute over chickens. It's a fight that has
divided the town and pitted family against family.
"I'm not an animal-rights nut. I'm here eating steak. I'm wearing
leather boots. I like calf-roping," Bussey, 43, said at a local
restaurant last week. "But what they did to those chickens was wrong."
He admits he used to give little thought to the 1 million chickens
living next door to him. It seemed like the chickens had always been
there, over at Moark's sprawling egg factory on the outskirts of town
in the state's deepest southwest corner. Even the stinging stench from
tons of chicken manure was something like background noise to him.
But two incidents earlier this year changed Bussey's mind. First,
Moark, a Chesterfield, Mo.-based company, announced plans to at least
double the number of chickens at its Neosho site, creating the largest
such operation in the state. And then, by chance, Bussey saw workers
dumping a mix of live and dead chickens into a tractor trailer, and he
videotaped them. Four workers and the company have since been charged
with criminal animal abuse.
The resulting controversy has surprised many in this rural,
politically conservative area. Some residents for the first time are
questioning the large-scale animal facilities that blanket the region
and which are major employers. Local politicians have been caught
off-guard. And facing an unexpected tide of opposition, officials with
the state Department of Natural Resources have delayed making a
decision about Moark's future. A verdict on Moark's permit request,
expected by August, has been pushed back until at least later this
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