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KU frat suspended after allegations of turkey cruelty Members of Beta Theta Pi allegedly abused and later killed a turkey that was rented for a party.

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, at 3:27 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, at 5:54 p.m.

The Kansas University chapter that is facing allegations of animal cruelty involving a turkey was suspended indefinitely today by the Beta Theta Pi national organization.

"We were a little shocked by the accounts that are being shared," Martin Cobb, spokesman for the Beta Theta Pi national organization, told the Lawrence Journal-World.

"Good!" was the reaction of trumpeter Chad Boydston, who was playing in the band when the incident started.

"I'm glad that Lisa and I reported it. I couldn't just live with myself watching that poor animal abused like that and say nothing."

Lawrence police said Monday that they were investigating the fraternity for possible animal cruelty involving a live turkey at a party Friday night.

Witnesses at the fraternity house at 1425 Tennessee St. told The Star they saw several fraternity brothers kick in a cage holding the turkey. The turkey was rented for the evening and was not scheduled to be slaughtered.

The party was a catered affair with turkey on the menu. Just not this one.

When the men broke the cage, the turkey fled and raced through the dance crowd of about 150 people. It was allegedly 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 drummer playing in the band jumped off the stage and begged the college students to let her have the bird.

“They told me it was none of my business,” said Lisa McKenzie, whose blues band, Grand Marquis, was hired to play at the fraternity’s formal dinner party. The group had played at the traditional party, which some called “the turkey pull,” for several years.

McKenzie said the brutality nauseated her and the other band members. They ended their gig before the last set and called police.

McKenzie’s voice shook as she described it as “a horrible thing to see, especially on a day when so much violence hurt our country,” referring to the deadly school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Boydston said the turkey was running for its life. “It turned into a blood lust,” he said. “We saw a mob mentality.”

Monday afternoon, Lawrence police released a statement saying that officers arrived at the party around 11:50 p.m. Police were told that a fraternity member killed the turkey to end its suffering. A police spokesman said he thought the fraternity was planning to eat the bird.

No one from Beta Theta Pi responded to phone calls seeking comments. The university emailed a statement that said the fraternity’s national chapter and the KU Interfraternity Council were investigating the complaint. The statement said that the university expects anyone with information about the incident to cooperate fully.

“Behavior such as that reported is reprehensible and is not what KU would expect from its students,” the statement said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is looking into the case. Stephanie Bell, an associate director in PETA’s cruelty investigation department, said that if the animal rights group determines the abuse report was accurate, it would press for criminal charges and disciplinary action against the fraternity by the university.

If true, “this alarming incident is the very definition of bully behavior,” Bell said. “... People who abuse animals rarely do it only once and almost never stop there. There should never be a live animal at a fraternity party.”

Lawrence police said the case will be forwarded to the Douglas County district attorney, who would consider charges once the investigation is complete.

To reach Lee Hill Kavanaugh, call 816-234-4420 or send email to ekavanaugh@kcstar.com.

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