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.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

(August 5, 2005) — An arrest warrant has been issued by the State Police for Megan Cosgrove, a one-time Rochester resident. She was one of three animal rights activists who last summer paid three unauthorized visits to the Wegmans Egg Farm, a 750,000-hen operation in Wolcott, Wayne County.

The out-of-state resident will surrender voluntarily early next week, said State Police Investigator Frank Daurizio.

Two other activists were arraigned this afternoon in Wolcott Town Court, posted cash bail of $1,000 each and were released on their own recognizance.

"It was an interesting experience, being arrested," said Adam Durand, 25, one of the activists. "Everyone was polite and we were, too."

The three activists are charged with third-degree burglary, a felony that carries a penalty of up to seven years in jail.

Appearing in court today were Durand, a packaging designer from Rochester, and Melanie Ippolito, 21, a massage therapy student, also from Rochester.

Durand, who videotaped the three visits, said he and the two others took nine injured hens from the Wadsworth Road facility, the largest egg farm in New York. Two died soon after.

He said they wore masks and latex gloves and entered at least three sheds at the facility in freshly laundered clothes, aware that confined flocks of birds are vulnerable to avian flu and other diseases brought from outside.

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. spokeswoman Jo Natale declined to comment on the impending arrests, and referred all questions to the State Police. "That will continue to be the case, now that this is a criminal matter," she said.

All three activists are members of a Rochester animal rights group called Compassionate Consumers. On July 3, the group released its video documentary of the visits, "Wegmans Cruelty."

Two thousand copies of the video have been downloaded from the Compassionate Consumers Web site, a process that takes at least two hours each time, said group spokeswoman Jodi Chemes. Another 1,100 have been sold or given away free, she said.

"It should be Wegmans being charged, not Mel and Adam," said Chemes, a Rochester tax accountant who claims she was fired from her job in July for her animal rights activism.

The 30-minute documentary intersperses graphic footage of injured and trapped hens with interviews with activists and stock footage of Wegmans officials.

Natale, recorded by Durand during a phone conversation last year, is an unwitting narrator in part of the film.

The video shows rows of stacked battery cages, each the size of a file drawer — a standard arrangement at the 200-plus large-scale U.S. egg farms. It also shows the activists taking dead birds from cages.

There will be mortality among so many hens — though at rates much lower than at farms where hens roam free and are vulnerable to predators, said Dr. Benjamin Lucio-Martinez.

The Cornell University veterinarian, not employed by Wegmans, inspects chickens at that company's farm every 8 or 10 weeks when they are shipped away for slaughter. He called the big facility "among the best in the country" for its treatment of the animals.

"I've seen this evolve," said Lucio-Martinez, a 50-year researcher and observer of egg operations. "You'd have to go back to the '30s for birds that are not in cages."

Activists say that housing birds in battery cages, now banned in Europe, and other egg industry practices are cruel — and that U.S. law should be revised to reflect that. In nature, Durand and others said, hens are social creatures used to open air, sunshine, dust baths and foraging for food.

The hens taken from the Wegmans farm are worth less than $1.50 each, said Chemes — making the charges more of an industry power play than a reflection of reality, she said.

"It would be preposterous to send us to prison for taking chickens," Durand said.

The activists said they anticipated legal action, and have never tried to hide their identities, acts or intentions in raiding the egg farm.

Ippolito and Durand both spoke Monday evening at the first public screening of "Wegmans Cruelty," in Brighton Town Hall, freely answering questions about their participation.

"We've been preparing for this for two years," Durand said later of the criminal charges. "When you carry out civil disobedience, you expect there will be penalties for it."

But the gravity of the charges came as a surprise, he said, expecting to pay a $75 fine for trespassing.

In legal parlance, trespassing is a "violation," and has the same weight as a parking ticket.

"We thought the D.A. in Wayne County didn't consider us dangerous criminals," Durand said of the county's district attorney, Richard Healy, who was on vacation this week and was unavailable for comment.

"This is not the crime of the century," said Healy in an interview last month. He added then that he had been in conversations with Wegmans officials on the matter, and asked them: "Do you really want a trial on this?"

Donald Thompson, the Rochester-based lawyer for the three activists, said there could be a trial. "That's the path we're starting down here."

Bail likely will be set and "is pretty standard in felony cases," said Investigator Daurizio.

At court today, Durand and Ippolito, Chemes said, "are bringing their checkbooks."



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