Wegmans Cruelty: An Unofficial Blog

This is an unofficial blog and informational archive related to the WEGMANSCRUELTY film and resulting campaign.

Please see that page for more information.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Animal Cruelty?
Ithaca Times / IthacaTimes.com
By: M. Tye Wolfe
08/17/2005

A group of activists has caused a potential public relations problem for the privately owned Rochester-based food giant Wegmans, which has a popular store in Ithaca.

Members of Compassionate Consumers, also based in Rochester, have been distributing a DVD that they say contains footage from Wegmans' egg farm, which houses 750,000 hens.

The group claims that the living conditions of the hens in the egg farm are inhumane, and use graphic, disturbing footage to substantiate their claims.

Recently, two of the people who went to the farm were given felony burglarly charges. On Aug. 5, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Adam Durand, 25, and Melanie Ippolito, 21, face up to seven years in prison.

In addition to filming the conditions of the farm, the activists removed several hens they believed to be on the brink of death.

Spokepersons for Compassionate Consumer and Wegmans could not be reached by press time. However, on its Web site, Wegmans says the farm conforms to "extremely high standards" and that the activists "compromised our biosecurity measures and put the health and safety of our hens at risk."

Wegmans says that investigations conducted by police and the Wayne County District Attorney determined "there was no evidence of animal abuse at our farm." Wegmans also says that a Cornell University veterinarian was interviewed as part of the investigation.

Wegmans also claims it has "serious doubts" as to whether the footage and images in this film come from its farm. "Moral reasons aside, why would we harm the very animals we rely upon for eggs?" Wegmans does not explain why, if the footage does not come from the farm, the activists have been subject to arrest.

The DVD, entitled "Wegmans Cruelty" has high production values and is slightly less than one half-hour in length. It begins with a brief history of Wegmans before showing footage that ostensibly came from a nighttime visit to the egg farm.

In the video, chickens are shown packed, sometimes nine at at time, into small cages, unable to spread their wings. Many look sickly. Some of the hens are covered in excrement from the hens in the cages above them. Hens are also shown occupying cages that contain petrified chicken corpses. The activists are shown prying the calcified bodies from the cages with gloved hands. Underneath the cages, there is footage of a hen corpse covered in beetles. Another hen apparently fell into the manure pit, and was shown gasping for breath as most of its body was submerged in liquid excrement. That hen later died, according to activists.

Several of the hens appear to have malformed beaks. Activists claim this stems from a common practice that involves burning off the tips of beaks when hens are chicks. This keeps the hens from killing one another while being stuck together in such close conditions. Recently, under pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, McDonalds Corp. demanded that all its chicken providers refrain from this practice.

The video also juxtaposes the comments of Jo Natale, who claims the hens are well treated and attended by a veterinarian, with the footage of the suffering birds.

It is difficult to assess how the video, and Wegmans' reaction to it, is playing locally. Ithaca activist Diana Goodrich has been distributing copies of the documentary using the e-mail contact info@ithacvoices.org.

"I want everyone to see this documentary because people have a right to know how their food is produced, and I don't believe any of Wegmans' customers would willingly support the abuse and neglect of hens under Wegmans' care," Goodrich says.

M. Tye Wolfe

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