Charges of animal cruelty against five employees of a Kitchener-based turkey breeder were dropped, with the company itself instead pleading guilty to one count of the offence.

The employees of Hybrid Turkey were charged last summer, after video surfaced appearing to show them clubbing and kicking turkeys at the company’s facility in Bright, west of Kitchener.

The video was shot by a member of animal rights group Mercy for Animals Canada, who had secretly recorded it while at the facility.

This week, the case surfaced in a Woodstock courtroom, with the company agreeing to plead guilty.

Once that happened – and a fine of $5,600 was levied – the charges against its employees were dropped.

Dave Libertini is a managing director with Hendrix Genetics, the company that owns Hybrid Turkey.

Writing on his company’s website, Libertini said that Hendrix has “zero tolerance” for any form of animal abuse.

“We took immediate steps to address this situation,” he said.

“We have a solid record of investment of time and resources into all aspects of animal welfare – including research and advocacy as well as policy, procedures and training.”

At the time the video was made public, Hybrid Turkey officials said they had suspended four of their employees.

Not known is what happened to the employees after that, or if they remain with the company.

The company did not respond to CTV’s request for comment before this story was published.

For its part, Mercy for Animals Canada regards the guilty plea as a “landmark decision” for animal rights.

Managing director Krista Hiddema said she had no issue with the charges against Hybrid’s employees being withdrawn.

“(The company) being charged is the right decision,” she said in an interview.

“They are the ones that allowed a culture of cruelty to fester within that factory farm.”

Where Hiddema does see room for improvement is in the punishment meted out by the court.

She said she would like to see animal abusers receive harsher fines or even jail time in the future.