Spring 2006 Poultry Press << Previous - Next >>

Battery Cages for Laying Hens – Going, Going . . . Gone?

Activist Who Filmed Wegmans Egg Farm Cruelty Acquitted of Burglary
“Yes, 12 people decided to put a chicken’s needs above their property value” – Adam Durand, acquitted activist, to UPC via email, May 5, 2006

International Respect for Chickens Day, May 4, 2006, was the historic day that a jury in Wayne County, New York acquitted Compassionate Consumers investigator Adam Durand, of Rochester, NY, of all three counts of felony burglary and three counts of petit larceny - charges that could have put him in prison for 7 years – for sneaking into a Wegmans Food Markets egg farm to document the conditions and remove eleven suffering hens.

Acquitted of felony charges, Durand was, however, convicted by the jury of misdemeanor criminal trespassing. For this he was sentenced by Judge Dennis Kehoe to six months in jail, one year probation, 100 hours of community service, and $1500 in fines for what the judge called Durand’s “inexcusable conduct.”
On three separate occasions in 2004, Durand and two colleagues videotaped the decaying corpses of caged hens, hens with untreated eye infections, and hens with their heads caught between cage bars where they died, and were dying, immobilized.

Scenes in the half-hour documentary, Wegmans Cruelty (available from UPC for $10 and viewable at WegmansCruelty.com) show a hen submerged in excrement in the manure pits beneath the cages, a hen covered with flies, and the indescribable filth, misery and neglect of the Wegmans egg operation, which, despite Wegmans’ reputation as a progressive grocery chain, is just like every other battery hen operation caught on tape. For example, footage obtained last October at an Ontario battery-hen farm – owned, it turns out, by a veterinarian – shows, in the words of the Vancouver Humane Society in British Columbia, that contrary to Canadian egg industry claims, the situation in Canada “is no different than the horrible cruelty that is being uncovered in the US.”

Wegmans was fittingly “caught between the bars” – insisting that the scenes in Wegmans Cruelty didn’t come from their farm, while the very act of pressing charges against Durand was an admission that the scenes did come from their farm.    

Seeking to shake off the bad publicity, Wegmans invited reporters to tour their Wolcott facility where the investigation took place (after having refused a tour to Compassionate Consumers prior to the break-in). But as the Rochester City Newspaper reported on May 10, even though the manure mounds beneath the cages were down to one or two feet high from the four to six-feet high mounds the investigators taped, “What was the same in both the video and the media visit were the cages themselves.” A Wegmans cage holds 4 to 7 hens. Each hen has 75 square inches of living space – less than a sheet of typing paper. The cages “are stacked four high and run the full length of the building, about 400 feet (that’s the length of a football field, plus 100 feet).” 

This case was covered by the Associated Press, The New York Times, ABC’s Primetime, and other media. To learn everything about the case, visit Wegmanscruelty.com. To help with Adam Durand’s Legal Defense Fund, send a check to: Compassionate Consumers, PO Box 18552, Rochester, NY 14618-0552.

 


This photo of Indonesians burning live chickens to destroy the “evil spirits” they blame for avian influenza could as easily have been taken at Kreider Farms in Pennsylvania.

"I SEE LIVE CHICKENS THROWN INTO THE FIRES IF THEY ARE DYING AND I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW MUCH PAIN THEY FEEL BEING BURNED ALIVE. SOMETIMES I SEE THE WORKERS TAKE CHICKENS BY THE HEAD AND SWING THEIR BODY TO BREAK THEIR NECKS BEFORE THEY BURN THEM BUT MOST TIMES THEY DON’T CARE IF THE CHICKENS ARE ALIVE BEFORE THEY THROW THEM IN THE FIRE.”

-Kreider Farms employee

 

 

“Animal Care Certified” is now “United Egg Producers Certified”: Misleading Egg Carton Labels Continue
     
Wegmans was one of many egg companies dubbed “Animal Care Certified” by the US trade group United Egg Producers. “Animal Care Certified” falsely suggested that the hens owned by these companies are treated humanely. However, in 2005, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the “Animal Care Certified” logo on egg cartons must be off the shelves by April 1, 2006 – the result of the activist group Compassion Over Killing’s campaign to end the egg industry’s public relations lie. And now? According to their website, unitedegg.org, United Egg Producers has “unveiled a new animal care certification logo to appear on egg cartons nationwide.”  Don’t be fooled: “Shells From Hell” is the only correct label for these miserable eggs. 
     
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Egg Farms Exposed

An undercover investigation at Esbenshade Farms in Mount Joy, PA, in Lancaster County, has resulted in 35 counts of animal cruelty lodged against Esbenshade’s chief executive and its farm manager. The investigation, led by Compassion Over Killing, documents the same appalling conditions at Esbenshade as those found at Wegmans: hens stuffed in cages with body parts immobilized between cage bars, sick and injured hens, decomposing corpses, toxic ammonia fumes rising from the manure pits, suffering and cruelty beyond description.

Similar conditions have been documented by investigators at Kreider Farms, also in Lancaster County, PA (on the web at KreiderCruelty.com). Hugs for Puppies, a Philadelphia-based group, reported in their Spring 2006 newsletter that “Kreider Farms, which houses 3.5 million hens in five production facilities in Lancaster County, claims that its chickens are ‘happy and well-treated’ but what Hugs investigators found was a disturbingly different reality.”   

 

What’s the Difference Between Free-Range and Cage-Free?

“Free-range” hens live in buildings that are supposed to allow some access to the outdoors, which may or may not include grass. “Cage-free” hens live entirely indoors in large buildings. Regardless of how the hens are kept, or what the labels say, virtually all hens used for egg production are debeaked at the hatchery as soon as they’re born, and they are sent to slaughter or to live bird markets after a year or two of laying eggs. In addition, their food may be periodically reduced or withheld in the practice known as forced molting, and virtually all hens are deprived of food several hours or days before going to slaughter, as producers don’t like to feed birds whose eggs they can’t sell. Called “old” or “spent” by egg producers, hens sent to slaughter at a year or two old are extremely young birds, more like teenage girls than older women. And for every egg-laying hen, a male chick is born who is suffocated to death in trashcans, ground up alive, or electrocuted at the hatchery for lack of commercial value (roosters don’t lay eggs).
Something else to be aware of is that producers who keep millions of hens in battery cages often run smaller units of, say, 20,000 “cage-free” hens per henhouse, whose eggs are sold under a different label. Not surprisingly, a cage-free producer explains in Peter Singer & Jim Mason’s new book The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter that “at times these producers will have surplus caged eggs they can’t sell,” and “Where do you think those eggs are going to be going? In cage-free cartons” (pp. 109-110).

 

 

  • The most ethical and compassionate decision a consumer can make is to go egg-free. For great egg-free recipes, order Replacing Eggs from UPC ($3.50 includes shipping) and Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey: A Poultryless “Poultry” Potpourri ($14.95 includes shipping).

  • Urge grocery stores, restaurants, and egg producers to switch to cage-free – or better yet, free-range – eggs, which will save millions of hens from a horrible life in cages. Approximately 80 universities in the United States have switched to cage-free eggs during the past year, including Ohio State University. Grocery chains including Whole Foods and Wild Oats have stopped selling eggs from caged hens, and America Online and Google employee cafeterias will no longer serve eggs from caged hens. Paul Shapiro, who heads the cage-free campaign for The Humane Society of the United States, may be contacted for ongoing campaign information at 301-721-6432 or by email at pshapiro@hsus.org.

  • Tell Wegmans and United Egg Producers you refuse to buy eggs from battery-caged hens and urge them to get rid of the cages. Contact:

Wegmans Foods Markets, Inc.
c/o Jeanne Colleluori, Consumer Affairs
1500 Brooks Avenue, PO Box 30844
Rochester, NY 14603-0844
Phone: 585-464-4760 or toll free 800-WEGMANS (934-6267)
TDD (For the Hearing Impaired) 328-8360
Email: Jeanne.Colleluori@wegmans.com
Website: www.wegmans.com

Al Pope, President & CEO
United Egg Producers
1720 Windward Concourse, Suite 230
Alpharetta, GA 30005
Phone: 770-360-9220
Fax: 770-360-7058
Email: info@unitedegg.org
Website: www.unitedegg.org

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