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.

Friday, September 30, 2005

NY Senators get complaints about Wegmans' Cruelty

"Please act, if not for the animals then for public health."

To: Sen. Charles Schumer
Sen. Hillary Clinton

September 26, 2005

Because there are no laws to keep egg-laying hens from being tortured in battery-cages a regional grocery chain is being attacked for its inhumane practices. Wegmans owns an egg farm in Wolcott, NY. While it is true their practices are not illegal, the chickens are suffering.

In the summer of 2004, a group of three people broke into the farm that Wegmans would not allow tours of. They recorded horrible pictures of dead as well as alive chickens in these battery-cages. Some had managed to escape only to die in the manure pits. Wegmans is pressing charges against these three now that the video has been released for the public to view. The charges include felony burglary because some dying chickens were taken from the facility to save their lives. After the break-ins, an investigation of the farm by the Wayne County district attorney’s office and the New York State Police concluded that there was no illegal animal abuse.

The standards for laying hens in the industry are horrific. In a book by Eric Marcus, Meat Market, about the industry, he talks of the beak searing, tight confinement of less then an 8 ½-by-11 inch sheet of paper, high rates of injury and mortality, and lack of individual veterinary care. He says, “There is no doubt in my mind that a bite of an egg involves more suffering than a bite of hamburger or bacon.”

Many in the American public do not want to see the animals we eat mistreated, if not for concern of the animals then because of our health. It took mad cow disease to get regulations passed keeping sick animals from being dragged to slaughter. Will it mean the public’s health before we stop marketing eggs that come from stressed and dying birds?

I urge you today to do all you can to change the U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for animal welfare. The battery-cage practice should be illegal. Cases like the one involving Wegmans should not have boiled down to an argument between the company and the public. The website, www.WegmansCruelty.com should not exist because the battery-cage should not exist.

Thank you for your consideration.

Liverpool , NY
Trio plucked by County Grand Jury for Wegman’s Chicken Farm break-in

The Times of Wayne County [widely recognized as an unreliable source]

Burglary, Criminal Trespass and Petit Larceny...Trial or plea bargain in their future?

It may have started as a protest for animal rights, but three young people have now discovered that their actions have brought serious legal consequences. A Wayne County Grand Jury has indicted the trio for Burglary, Criminal Trespass and Petit Larceny on Thursday.

Adam Durand, age 25, of Rochester and Melanie Ippolito, age 21, and Megan Cosgrove, age 22.

The three are members of Compassionate Consumers, a local animal rights group protesting the conditions of chickens at the Wegman’s egg farm in the Town of Wolcott. They admit that they illegally entered the farm chicken egg laying houses on several occasions in 2004. They videotaped what they claimed were cruel conditions the chickens were forced to live in, citing cramped cages, and sick and dying chickens.The videotape was released to media outlets in early July and a copy was given to Wegman’s. It was also posted on the group’s website. The three turned themselves into police in August.

Wegman’s denied any cruelty charges and said the farm is a leader in the industry for animal care and production.

Wegman’s also claimed that by breaking into the chicken houses, the group violated biosecurity precautions they have in place to avoid the chickens being contaminated from outside sources.
In the initial arraignment, it is alleged that the Durand and Ippolito used wire cutters to gain access to the manure rooms below the chicken houses. It was also stated that they took a total of 8 hens from the buildings on at least two occasions.

The grand jury indictment has Durand charged with three counts each of Felony Burglary in the 3rd Degree, Misdemeanor Petit Larceny and Criminal Trespass. Ippolito was charged with two counts each and Cosgrove with one count each.

In all, the group is charged with taking 11 chickens. They stated that the chickens were sick and they never intended to take them but did so to save their lives. In an statement at the time of their arrest, Durand wrote that he and Ippolito “...were surprised that the charges were not limited to trespassing, but have no regrets”

Since their arrest, the group has staged several protests marches in front of the Wegman’s Pittsford store in an attempt to get their message out to the public.

The Times has learned that the lawyer representing the group made suggestions that Compassionate Consumers, may have been willing to stop their public and internet harassment of Wegman's, if charges were reduced, or dropped. The lawyer suggested that these were young college students and convictions on such harsh charges was not warranted, according to sources. None of the three have prior criminal records.

Wayne County District Attorney, Rick Healy, said he would offer no reduction in the charges, unless Wegman’s agreed to do so.

Since the break-in at the Wegman’s farm, security has been beefed up and fences and security gates have been installed.

The three will be arraigned on the grand jury indictments and a date has yet to be set for court proceedings.

Local Group Coordinates Weekend of Action Against Company

Contact:Ryan Merkley, 585-410-0773, ryan@compassionateconsumers.org

Rochester, NY (September 29, 2005) – Rochester-based consumer advocacy group Compassionate Consumers will hold a demonstration this Saturday, asking Wegmans to stop cruel practices at the company’s egg farm. The demonstration will be part of a Wegmans Weekend of Action, bringing together hundreds of activists in ten cities from Buffalo to Baltimore. The demonstrations will coincide with Sunday’s opening of the newest Wegmans store in Hunt Valley, MD. The groups involved are asking Wegmans to stop the inhumane use of battery cages on its Wolcott, NY egg farm and to join the University of Rochester in going cage-free. Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets, is a Senior Trustee at UR.

Date: Saturday, 1 OctoberTime: 12:15 pm – 1:30 pm

Place: Wegmans, 3195 Monroe Ave., Rochester, NY

Recently Compassionate Consumers led an investigation at Wegmans Egg Farm, where the group found widespread evidence of egregious cruelty to animals. Investigators found hens covered with feces and open sores, birds forced to sleep atop decomposed corpses, beak mutilations, and hens drowning in liquid manure. Their 27-minute documentary "Wegmans Cruelty" contains video footage of their findings. Released this summer, the film has generated consumer outrage nationwide.

“What Wegmans is doing at its egg farm is simply appalling,” says Baltimore-area resident Erin Marcus. “These battery cages are simply too cruel for any socially conscious company to support.”

National organizations have also taken notice of the cruelty at Wegmans Egg Farm. In July, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal welfare organization, urged Wegmans to phase out battery cages and discontinue the use of misleading egg advertising. The HSUS also noted that some of Wegmans' largest competitors have already stopped selling battery-cage eggs. This year alone two of the nation’s three largest organic food chains, Whole Foods and Wild Oats decided to go cage free.

Compassionate Consumers is a Rochester-based organization dedicated to providing the public with information about the treatment of animals on farms and at slaughter. The group is calling for a boycott of battery cage eggs. For more information visit: www.WegmansCruelty.com
Wegmans should follow University of Rochester's example

Campus Times - Opinions Issue: 9/29/05

By Hoss Firooznia & Ryan Merkley

Starting this week, UR joins a growing number of colleges and universities that have begun to consider the connection between dining hall options and animal suffering.

Along with George Washington University, Marist College and Vassar College, UR no longer uses "battery cage" eggs in any food prepared on campus.

The move was prompted by UR students working with the Humane Society of the United States. You won't notice it, but the choice of eggs used in campus dining halls this semester will reduce the suffering of over 2,000 laying hens. Unfortunately, most eggs in the U.S. come from massive factory farms where chickens are packed in crowded wire cages stacked in tiers, or "batteries." Soon to be banned in Europe, these cages confine each animal to an area smaller than the bottom of a shoebox, with hens in the lower tiers forced to live in the excrement of those above them. Hens remain caged like this 24 hours a day, without space enough to walk or even stretch their wings.

Not surprisingly, the intense crowding leads to a variety of pathological behaviors, including aggression. To make the hens more docile, egg producers burn off part of their nerve-rich beaks with a hot blade. The amputation is performed without anaesthesia and it results in life-long pain. Dining Services deserves to be congratulated for making this bold, socially conscious move to reduce UR's role in causing unnecessary animal suffering.

Now is the time for others to follow this school's lead. Rochester's own Wegmans Food Markets should be next.

Wegmans owns the state's largest egg farm, with over 700,000 hens confined on a battery-cage facility in nearby Wolcott, NY. The treatment mentioned above is standard practice in the egg industry, and nearly any eggs you buy at the grocery store - including Wegmans' own brand - are produced under these same gruesome conditions.

Recently, local consumer advocacy group Compassionate Consumers, led an investigation at Wegmans Egg Farm, where they found widespread evidence of animal cruelty.

Investigators found hens covered with feces and open sores, birds forced to sleep atop decomposed corpses, beak mutilations and hens drowning in liquid manure.

Their 27-minute documentary "Wegmans Cruelty" contains video footage of their findings. Released this past summer, the film has generated consumer outrage from Rochester to Baltimore, where Wegmans' newest store is scheduled to open next month.

National organizations have taken notice too. In July, The Humane Society of the United States urged Wegmans to phase out battery cages and discontinue use of misleading egg advertising, noting that some of Wegmans' largest competitors have already stopped selling battery-cage eggs.

Even the Better Business Bureau has stepped in, ruling that the "Animal Care Certified" logo on Wegmans' egg cartons is "misleading."

So far, however, Wegmans refuses to improve the treatment of its hens. While it may seem unrealistic to expect a huge company like Wegmans to change its ways, earlier this year two of the nation's largest organic supermarket chains did just that.

Both Wild Oats and Whole Foods have more stores than Wegmans, and both agreed to stop carrying battery cage eggs.

As a company supposedly devoted to "Animal Care," why can Wegmans not take this step towards alleviating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of animals? If other national chains can do away with battery cages, so can Wegmans. That is why we are urging Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets and a Senior Trustee of UR, to follow this university's lead and do the right thing.

You can help. Please sign the petition to tell Wegmans that battery cages are simply too cruel for any socially responsible company to support. The petition is available online, at www.urveg.org.

Firooznia can be reached at hfirooznia@campustimes.org.
Merkley can be reached at rmerkley@campustimes.org
Join the Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition
in convincing Wegmans Grocery
to stop selling and producing battery cage eggs.

When: Sunday October 2, 2005
at 2:00pm
Note: We will actually be there in shifts all day from 7:00am-sundown
but we are calling for a large demo at 2:00pm
so feel free to show up at any time!

Where: Wegmans Grocery
122 Shawan RoadHunt Valley, MD 21030(410) 773-3900

More info: Contact Aaron at:
or (410)294-9109

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Letter to the Editor,
Newark's Courier Gazette, 9/23/05:


Three members of Compassionate Consumers have been charged with burglary. Last year they entered Wegmans egg farm (Wolcott), and this summer they released a graphic video of conditions at the 750,000-hen facility.

The activists took several injured hens from the facility and found homes for them.Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy contends that the activists broke the law, and that Wegmans treatment of hens is within the law.

But the ASPCA, which has police powers in New York State to enforce and interpret animal protection laws, contends that induced molting, an extended period of withholding nutrition in order to shock the hens into laying more eggs, is illegal.

In 1998, the ASPCA advised all New York egg producers that New York State law section 353, of Article 26 of the Agriculture and Markets law, prohibited the deprivation of necessary food or drink for animals owned by the producers. The ASPCA says that induced molting is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

Wegmans did not press any charges against the intruders until after the video was made public. The video depicts hens packed tightly together in filty wire cages, all living in inhumane squalor. The activists recorded what they saw and gave this evidence to the district attorney - in hopes that Wegmans would be held accountable. This is not something one would expect from "real" burglars.

I believe the Compassionate Consumers members, who now face criminal charges, acted courageously, risking their freedom to try to expose the cruelties that are commonplace at most large egg farms.

Joel Freedman

Joel Freedman is on the Board of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate NY.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Little Theatre to show 'Wegmans Cruelty' film

Matt Daneman, Democrat and Chronicle Staff writer

(September 26, 2005) — A controversial documentary alleging cruelty in Wegmans Food Markets Inc.'s treatment of animals will be screened tonight at the Little Theatre.

The 27-minute film Wegmans Cruelty, on the printed Little Theatre schedule, is to play as part of the theater's monthly Emerging Filmmakers Series, which showcases locally produced short films.

The film was put together by a vegetarian activist group, called Compassionate Consumers, whose members broke into the Wegmans Egg Farm on Wadsworth Road in Wayne County three times in 2004.

The film is based on the raids, interviews with the trespassers, comments from animal rights activists and footage of Wegmans executives.It shows hens wandering over heaps of manure and the group's investigators removing corpses from wire cages and freeing injured hens whose heads, feet or wings were snagged in the wire-grid "battery" cages.

A number of the activists behind the film have been charged with burglary for their nighttime visits to the egg farm.The documentary, along with eight other short films, is to screen at 9:15 p.m.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Wegmans egg farm film to be shown at Little Theater

9/25/2005 11:00 PM
(Joylynn Whitfield, WROC-TV)

The Wegmans egg farm debate heats up again Monday night with the debut of a documentary at The Little Theater. The film will be shown as part of the "Emerging Filmmaker" series.

"There is more behind the egg carton behind the sticker price of 99 cents a dozen," said Kyle Merkley of Compassionate Consumers. "A lot of people don't know where food comes from especially when it comes to eggs."

In the film, the group claims to go inside one of Wegman's egg farms.

"Some were submerged in manure pits, some in cages so small they could barely spread their wings. Many of them had oozing sores and were covered in feces from hens above them in stacked cages."

The group says the cruelty is similar to other caged chicken farms across the country, but it chose to focus on the Wegmans operation because the chain is immensely popular in Rochester.

Wegmans is fighting back. Spokesperson Jo Natale supplied News 8 with video of a Wegmans egg farm that looks quite different from the documentary's footage.

Natale said, "This film misrepresents our farm operation. It contains incorrect information about our farm. We don't believe that all of that footage and all of those images came from Wegmans' egg farm."

"As far as we're concerned we know footage is from their farm. We have GPS footage from Wegmans. We have footage of Wegmans egg trucks," said Ryan Merkley.

Three people involved in making the film, Adam Durand, Melanie Ippolito, and Megan Cosgrove, were charged with third degree burglary for breaking into the farm.

The film plays at the Little Theatre Monday at 9:15 p.m.

News 8 attempted to contact The Little to ask why it is showing the controversial film. We were unable to reach anyone for comment.

Related Link:

E-mail this story to a friend.


"If there's a way to do it better, we'll do it." -
Danny Wegman (CEO,Wegmans Food Markets Inc.) in an interview
concerning Wegmans Egg Farm in Wolcott, NY.

A month ago, CAP sent Mr. Wegman a letter outlining exactly
how they can 'do it better.' We have gotten no response

A Rochester organization named Compassionate Consumers
released a video exposing the truth about Wegmans Egg Farm.
If you haven't seen it yet, please download the film at
www.WegmansCruelty.com or ask for a DVD copy. Wegmans made
many claims on their website that this excellent video
disproves. The 700,000 hens on their farm were found packed
so tightly into battery cages that they had no chance to do
anything natural, such as even spread a wing. Other hens
were found tangled in the cage wire, unable to reach food or
water. Others were found covered in feces, living on top of
corpses, and some were found drowning in the manure pits
below the battery cages. Is that "Food you feel good about"?

Wegmans currently stands behind the misleading Animal Care
Certified (ACC) label they use; a label the Better Business
Bureau has twice ruled to be removed from egg cartons. Under
ACC, they are allowed to debeak hens, keep them in such
crowded conditions, and even starve them for weeks at a time
to force an egg laying cycle. CAP has asked Wegmans to stop
using this label and comply with the strict Certified Humane
Standards instead. They already have a reputation for
being progressive. We're just asking that they continue to
act accordingly by making changes to help these hens.

Being that Wegmans has refused to give us any type of
response, on October 1st we will have activists hosting
demonstrations at Wegmans' locations in nearly every city
where they have a store. We will be educating the public
about the atrocities of their egg farm, handing out
literature featuring vegan alternatives to eggs, and letting
Wegmans know that Rochester is not the only city with people
who care about hens.

Please join a demonstration in your area of NY:
Syracuse: Dewitt Wegmans 11:30am-1pm
Rochester: Pittsford Wegmans 12:15 - 1:30 pm
Buffalo: Amherst Wegmans 11:30am-1pm
Southern Tier: Corning Wegmans 12pm-2pm
Ithaca: 12pm-2pm
They claim 'Every Day You Get Our Best.' Let's hold them
accountable to that.

Please visit www.communityanimalproject.org for more
information on this campaign.

Shawn DeLeo
Community Animal Project

Thursday, September 22, 2005

UR to buy only eggs certified 'cage-free'

Note: the University of Rochester will no long sell eggs produced by Wegmans Egg Farm or other farms like it. While Danny Wegman is a UR Board Member, and Colleen Wegman an alumnas, UR will not buy eggs produced at their farm.

Misty Edgecomb, Democrat and Chronicle Staff writer

The 4,200 pounds of eggs that the University of Rochester serves to its students and staff every month will be certified "cage-free," beginning next week, the school announced Wednesday.

Several student activists raised concerns about the small cages in which many hens are housed at industrial farms and, with a Wisconsin producer providing the cage-free eggs for a "negligible" cost increase, the shift was an easy decision, said David Feist, guest services manager for Aramark, the food university's food service provider.

"It was the right thing to do," said Cam Schauf, director of campus dining services."They gave us a lot of information, and we thought this was a cause we wanted to run with," Feist said, describing student lobbying efforts by a group called UR-VEG "pretty intense."

The new supplier, a Port Washington, Wis., company called Egg Innovations, pledges the humane treatment of its birds and does not use cages. Previously, the school had used eggs raised by SYSCO, one of the main suppliers used by Aramark, Feist said.

Industrywide, just 2 percent of all eggs sold are cage-free or free-range, said Mitch Head, a spokesman for the Georgia-based United Egg Producers. Of those farms that do use cages, battery cages, which are stacked atop one another, are the norm, he said. Banning these cages is a major focus for animal activists.


Group Begs Wegs: Fix Your Eggs

The Syracuse New Times -- the Central New York Alternative

Despite the "Food You Feel Good About" label on the egg cartons, animal rights groups think Wegmans and their customers should feel anything but good about the origin of those dozens. Compassionate Consumers, a small coalition of Rochester activists, said chickens at a Wegmans-owned egg farm in Wolcott aren't being treated humanely and they have the video to prove it.

In 2004, three members of the group entered the egg farm several times with video cameras after conversations with Wegmans failed to allay their fears about the chickens' treatment. The result of those furtive field trips is a sharp DVD Wegmans Cruelty and some serious criminal charges against the three activists including trespassing and felony burglary.

The 27-minute video, which screened in Syracuse at the Vegetarian Festival on Aug. 28, offers some Blair Witch-style cinematography courtesy of filming by headlamp in a dark chicken barn. It also features frightening footage of chicken corpses trampled underneath still-living hens and encrusted onto the cages, chickens with necks and wings awkwardly stuck between the bars of their cages and even chickens drowning in their own manure.

An audio track of Wegmans' manager of consumer services Jo Natale on the phone with Compassionate Consumers' Adam Durand is laid over footage from the farm. For example, as Natale assures Durand that chickens wouldn't be defecating upon each other, we see a dark brown turd hit the white feathers on the back of an unsuspecting layer. Natale's claims that chicken corpses wouldn't be left in the cages are juxtaposed against at least 25 shots of chicken cadavers, with many so long dead they're no longer recognizable but for a beak or eyeball.

While Wegmans' communications specialist Jeanne Colleluori said, "It is possible that not all of the footage came from the Wegmans egg farm," the activists clearly state in the video that they are inside the farm while filming and show a Wegmans egg truck and a Wegmans form for tallying dead chickens found while inside. The video does use footage from other egg farms, but only in the beginning, and it is clear to viewers which segments are from inside the egg farm. Also, Wegmans readily admits that the group entered the facility several times in 2004.

It's hard to say with much accuracy whether or not these birds really have it that bad because Wegmans declined to reveal much about the inner workings of the farm, citing proprietary and biosecurity concerns over things such as avian flu. Wegmans directed questions about the farm's operation to Dr. Benjamin Lucio, a veterinarian and poultry scientist who checks on the farm roughly once a month as a free service provided by Cornell University, his employer. Wegmans refused The New Times' request for a tour of the facility, once again citing biosecurity concerns.

For starters (no, not buffalo wings), layer hens are hatched and their beaks clipped and cauterized--to prevent birds from damaging each other--at a breeding facility with which Wegmans contracts. Once at Wegmans' egg farm, Lucio said the chickens are kept in battery cages 24 hours a day, inside industrial-sized barns which he estimated hold 80,000 to 100,000 birds. Between four and seven birds live in one cage, are given food and water, and must have at least 67 square inches of space--less than an 81/2-by-11-inch sheet of paper--according Wegmans' voluntary standards. Eggs roll along the angled cage bottoms onto a belt that whisks them off to the grading facility.

Lucio explained that while workers are in the buildings on a daily basis, veterinary care for the birds is limited. "Treatments are limited to the flock. We don't treat one single chicken. It's almost impossible to find one sick chicken in a chicken house of that size. Once something, such as an illness, is starting that will affect several birds, then they are treated. Most of the care the birds get is preventive. Before they arrive they're vaccinated and then kept fed and watered." Lucio added that in a facility the size of Wegmans' "there will be dead birds in the cages every day." But he said he rarely sees them, decomposed as they were in the video, when he visits the farm.

In Meat Market (Brio Press), his 2005 book on the meat, egg and dairy industries, animal advocate Eric Marcus ranks egg production as one of the cruelest animal industries. "There is no doubt in my mind that a bite of egg involves more suffering than a bite of hamburger or bacon." He cites beak searing, tight confinement, high rates of injury and bird mortality, and lack of veterinary care as his reasons for damning industrial-scale egg farming. "Layer hens are worth so little that it is never financially viable to give them individualized veterinary care," he stated bluntly. Marcus also pointed out that male chicks, as useless as bee drones, born at breeding facilities like the one that provides hens to Wegmans, are killed, either gassed or put through a grinder while still living.

However, none of these practices is illegal or out of line with U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for animal welfare. In fact, after their break-ins, Compassionate Consumers called for an investigation of Wegmans' egg farm and soon after the Wayne County district attorney's office and the New York State Police conducted an investigation of the farm that concluded there was no animal abuse.

Wegmans is "proud of our egg farm," Colleluori said. Asked about the treatment of the chickens, Natale pointed to the fact that Wegmans' eggs are Animal Care Certified, a self-monitoring program administered by United Egg Producers, an egg industry trade association. She also suggested that the activists' ultimate goal is to discredit the ACC label, a suggestion that may not be far from the truth since Compassionate Consumers and other animal advocacy groups say the label isn't substantive. The Better Business Bureau has twice ruled that egg producers should stop using the ACC labels because they are misleading, but Wegmans' egg cartons still display the logo.

Colleluori conceded that Wegmans eggs are not the most humanely produced variety available. "We feel it's important to offer our customers a choice and they have that with the various cage-free egg brands we offer in addition to our traditional eggs," she said. In a recent press release, Wegmans stated, "Eggs fill a basic need. People rely upon them as a low-cost, nutritious food. Offering choices is the best way we know to allow our customers to exercise their personal beliefs and convictions." One dozen Wegmans Grade AA Medium Eggs regularly cost less than a dollar while "cage-free" eggs usually cost more than $3.

That Wegmans' customers' checkbooks directly affect the treatment of the hens is one thing both the grocer and the activists agree on. On their Web site www.compassionateconsumers.org, the group encourages people to boycott battery cage-produced eggs. "By simply not buying eggs or only buying 'humane' eggs, you can be part of a message to the industry that customers will not support these cruel farming practices, and that they cannot continue to profit unless things change." The group also offers a guide to egg buying and sorting through common egg labels on the site.

While Wegmans seems content to let the market dictate their business practices, Eric Schneider, attorney for the Compassionate Consumers members facing charges, said he hopes they can compromise. "I don't think this {battery} cage system is consistent with Wegmans' progressive public image. I hope they can see to appropriately let the public know that they're going to use more humane methods. Currently, the type they're using is horrific. As more people learn about it, they're not going to want to buy eggs derived in this way."

Given Wegmans' reluctance to negotiate, animal rights groups in most of the regions in which Wegmans has stores are tentatively planning a day of demonstrations outside the stores on Oct. 1. Shawn DeLeo of the Syracuse-based Community Animal Project helped Compassionate Consumers spread the word about Wegmans to groups in other regions. "I think Wegmans thinks that only a few people in Rochester care about this issue," DeLeo said. "We're hoping to show them that it's much bigger than that."

--Justin Park

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New York Activists: Tell Wegmans to Stop Using Cruel Battery Cages

Dear Activist,

The New York-based animal advocacy group Compassionate Consumers recently released footage from an undercover investigation of an egg factory farm owned by Wegmans Food Markets, a major grocery chain based in Rochester. The investigators discovered 700,000 chickens packed into wire cages so small that they couldn’t even lift their wings. The tips of the hens’ beaks had been cut off, and numerous dead birds were found in the cages. The investigators rescued birds who had become trapped after falling into the vast manure pits under the cages, left to die by Wegmans.

Students at the University of Rochester have started a petition, asking Wegmans to stop confining hens to tiny wire battery cages. While chickens raised on “free-range” egg farms are still usually treated very poorly, ending the use of battery cages is an important first step in improving animal welfare standards in the egg industry. Please sign the petition and forward it to your friends and family so that they can do the same.

After you’ve signed the petition, check out our guide to egg-free baking and cooking on VegCooking.com. Eating eggs is not only unhealthy (eggs are packed with cholesterol and salmonella)—it also supports one of the cruelest industries around. Please help chickens and your health by cutting eggs out of your diet.

Thank you for all that you do for animals!


Chris Holbein
Vegan Campaigns

Monday, September 19, 2005

Advocates Challenge Humane-Care Label on Md.

EggsBirds Are Cruelly Caged, Lawsuit Argues

By Nelson HernandezWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, September 19, 2005; B02

The "Animal Care Certified" stamp on the grocery store egg cartons declared that the chickens were raised in humane conditions, but the tapes tell a different tale.

The videos -- shot by Takoma Park animal advocates who say they have spent years sneaking into local poultry farms -- show hens closely packed in wire "battery cages," some missing most of their feathers, with open sores and burned beaks, and dead fowl caged with the living.

In February, the videos prompted the group, Compassion Over Killing, to file a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against area retailers Giant Food, Brookville Supermarket and Lehman's Egg Service and the organization that administers the Animal Care Certified certification, United Egg Producers.

Giant recently agreed to drop the logo from egg cartons sold under its brand name while it reviews Compassion Over Killing's claims that the birds are kept in inhumane conditions.

The group, which seeks to ban the use of the label, will go forward with claims against the other parties, including United Egg Producers, which has filed a motion to dismiss the case. But animal advocates hailed the settlement with Giant as a first step toward their goal of ending the use of cages in the U.S. egg industry.

"I think that Giant deserves to be applauded for taking the step in the right direction," Paul Shapiro, the manager of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, said in an interview. "Of course, we would like to see Giant stop selling eggs from caged birds altogether."

The terms of the settlement reached this month forbid representatives of Compassion Over Killing and Giant from commenting on the case. But in an interview in June, the director of the advocacy group said volunteers have videotaped conditions over the past four years at three Maryland farms.

Erica Meier, the director, said then that conditions at the farms that produced the certified eggs were indistinguishable from those at farms that produced non-certified eggs. (Giant-branded eggs do not come from those farms.) She said the birds did not have enough space to spread their wings -- they are given as much width as a spread-out newspaper -- and had their beaks burned off to reduce aggression.

"These birds are suffering tremendously inside these cages, and many of them die due to the conditions," Meier said.

Last year, the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Review Board ruled that the label was misleading.

Mitch Head, the spokesman for United Egg Producers, the industry's trade association, said that animal welfare experts had designed the certification standards and that the space was limited for a good reason.

"If you provide too much space to birds confined in a cage, they start to become territorial and start attacking each other," he said. As for the burning of beaks, "it's like trimming a fingernail. The very tip is like a hook or a dagger. It's done so that they don't attack each other and cause damage. It's not a painful process."

"They're kept just like every other farm in the country, as far as the generally accepted practices," Greg Clanton, a vice president at Ise America egg farm in Cecilton, one of the three farms where videotapes were made. "That's what I think they have the problem with: the industry as a whole."

Meier acknowledged as much in her June interview.

"Hopefully, we will someday get to that point where this is an illegal practice," Meier said of raising birds in battery cages. In most of Europe, for example, birds have more space. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, battery cages have been banned.

But in the United States, where there is pressure is to keep the price of eggs down, producers have to find a balance, experts say.

"High bird density is the norm in egg production," Inma Estevez, an associate professor of poultry science at the University of Maryland, wrote in an e-mail. "This is precisely why egg prices are so low. There is a very easy solution, consumers need to start paying premium prices for eggs produced in lower density systems. . . . The problem is that when most consumers go to the supermarket, they choose the cheapest eggs."

There is some evidence that the trend may be changing. Some stores, such as Whole Foods Market, sell eggs only from birds raised on cage-free farms. The February 2005 issue of Egg Industry, a trade publication, identified cage-free production as the fastest-growing sector of the egg industry. For Shapiro, the settlement was another step.

"The fact that a retailer like Giant is taking this kind of a move is pretty big," Shapiro said. "Not only does it impact literally hundreds of millions of animals, but it's also a commodity that millions of Americans buy all the time."

Friday, September 16, 2005


July 21, 2005

Colleen Wegman, President
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
1500 Brooks Ave.
Rochester, NY 14624

Dear Ms. Wegman:

On behalf of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 9 million members and constituents, I write to request a meeting to discuss a potentially mutually beneficial association between Wegmans and The HSUS and to clarify information regarding the “Animal Care Certified” advertising program. Specifically, I’d like to ask you to consider making a major commitment to sell only cage-free eggs at your stores.

As you may know, both Wild Oats Natural Marketplace and Whole Foods Market have recently adopted corporate policies against the sale of eggs from birds confined in cages. Presently, approximately 300 million hens in U.S. egg farms are overcrowded in wire “battery cages” so restrictive they aren’t even able to spread their wings, let alone engage in many other natural behaviors, including nesting, dust bathing, perching, and even walking. These birds endure lives of daily frustration and suffering.

Contrary to Wegmans’ statement that “hens do not produce eggs unless they are healthy and well-cared for,” world renowned poultry scientist Dr. Joy Mench affirms: “It is now generally agreed that good productivity and health are not necessarily indicators of good welfare....Individual animals may be in a comparatively poor state of welfare even though productivity within the unit may be high.”

Wegmans has the ability to truly make a difference for these birds and to respond in a positive way to the recent attention the company has received from an activist organization. Should Wegmans commit to phasing out the use of battery cages at Wegmans Egg Farm, the company would not only position itself as a market leader on animal welfare issues, but The HSUS would welcome the opportunity to promote Wegmans’ socially responsible cage-free policy by informing our millions of members and constituents, as well as consumers across the country, through press releases, web features, magazine articles, and our other communications tools.

Given Wegmans’ interest in animal welfare and the company’s mention of the “Animal Care Certified” (ACC) program on its website, I feel compelled to share with you my concerns that you have been misled about the value and integrity of the ACC advertising, which is fraught with controversy and legal challenges. In November 2003 and again in May 2004 upon appeal, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) ruled that the “Animal Care Certified” logo on egg cartons amounts to false and misleading advertising. The BBB then urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August 2004 to take legal action against those using it. The case is currently pending before the FTC, and the “Animal Care Certified” promotion is presently the subject of a false advertising lawsuit in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, I’d like to draw your attention to a final point needing clarification. Although the Wegmans website asserts that its egg facility is audited by federal agencies, neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture issues animal welfare guidelines for egg production. In fact, there is no federal law or agency that protects egg-laying hens from abuse.

It is my hope that Wegmans will rethink its position and phase out battery cages at the Wegmans Egg Farm. I have no doubt that consumers will respond very favorably as they have towards Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Natural Marketplaces. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important issue and positive promotion opportunity. Please contact me at 301-258-3070 or wpacelle@hsus.org.


Wayne Pacelle
President and CEO

Thursday, September 15, 2005

COK and Giant Settle False Advertising Claims Out of Court

Giant agrees to remove "Animal Care Certified" logo from store brand egg cartons.

Will Wegmans be next? Will someone sue Wegmans for fraud also?

See also:

Page B03, September 16, 2005

Giant to Halt Eggs' Animal Care Logo

Giant Food of Maryland, in response to a lawsuit filed by an animal advocacy group, has agreed to stop using a logo on cartons of its store-brand eggs that certifies them as coming from humanely treated chickens.

In February, the group, Compassion Over Killing, and four egg consumers filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against Giant Food, Brookville Supermarket and Lehman's Egg Service alleging that the "Animal Care Certified" logo stamped on egg cartons by United Egg Producers deceives shoppers by conveying a false message of humane animal care.

Erica Meier, a spokeswoman for Compassion Over Killing, said Giant will remove the logo from its egg cartons while it investigates claims that the chickens are kept in wire cages so small that they can't spread their wings and that chicks have parts of their beaks burned off to reduce the impact of stress-induced aggression.

A spokesman for Giant said the agreement applies only to Giant-brand eggs sold in the District. The suit against the remaining defendants will go forward, Meier said.
Community Animal Project launches Wegmans Campaign

I would first like to thank Compassionate Consumers for producing Wegmans Cruelty. A few members now have been arrested as a result of showing people what Wegmans continues to deny.

Community Animal Project does not believe that exposing the truth should be considered a crime, nor do we believe that Wegmans should continue keeping hens in such deplorable conditions.

Wegmans has a great reputation for being a progressive supermarket. Last week, CAP sent Wegmans a letter requesting that they continue to act according to their reputation by doing away with their battery cages. We have asked that they stop using the misleading Animal Care Certified (a label the Better Business Bureau recommended be taken off products), and comply with the much more strict Certified Humane standards instead. Being that Wegmans owns their own egg farm, they have complete control over what standards they follow.

We are asking people to continue contacting Wegmans and ask that they stop using battery cages. They claim 'Every Day You Get Our Best.' Let's hold them accountable to that. If you send a letter, please attach a receipt to show that you are asking them to make changes as a customer. If you decide to boycott Wegmans, attach the receipt to make a statement showing them your last time you'll be shopping there.

CAP has spent the past month contacting activists in every city where Wegmans has a store. These activists are now educating people in their communities through screenings of Wegmans Cruelty, distributing literature, and handing out DVDs. Wegmans will soon know that it is not just people from a few cities who are appalled by the conditions on their farm.

We'll soon have enough support in every city to have a productive Day of Action against
Wegmans, where activists in every city 'host' a demo at the same time. October 1st from 11am-1pm will be the first time for this. We hope that you will join activists in your area and continue to pressure Wegmans into making much needed changes.

Please visit our website for great eggless recipes and for updates.


Shawn DeLeo
Community Animal Project

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wegmans Cruelty at the Little Theatre!

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Rochester's Little Theatre will show our film as part of this month's Emerging Filmmakers Series, Monday September 26th at 9:15pm. Admission is $5. We'll also answer questions about the film after the showing.

This will be our first showing in a movie theater, and we're looking forward to it. We'll promote it by distributing movie flyers (PDF) in public venues. Please help us by handing out some flyers at your workplace, school, or around town.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Who is Crueler?
Wegmans Cruelty or KreiderCruelty.com ?

Undercover Investigation: Inhumane Conditions and Health Hazards Exposed at Major Philadelphia Area Egg Supplier

Philadelphia-based animal rights group Hugs for Puppies has just released undercover footage taken inside three egg production facilities operated by Kreider Farms in Lancaster County, PA. The video, which depicts eggs and birds covered in feces, birds trapped in cage wires, dead birds rotting in cages with live birds, and birds overcrowded in small wire cages, was condemned by animal welfare experts as portraying inhumane and unsanitary conditions.

Kreider is one of the nation's leading egg producers, and houses 3.5 million egg laying hens at its five locations in Lancaster County. The “battery cage” system of egg production depicted in the video has come under fire recently for its inhumane treatment of hens; the European Union has banned the use of battery cages after 2012.

Click here to learn more about this investigation

Monday, September 05, 2005

UR Veg's Wegmans Cruelty Action Page

See especially, Wegmans' claims: fact and fiction
In response to consumer concerns, Wegmans has been making a variety of claims about their Walcott egg farm. At best, these claims are misleading; at worst, they're simply false.
Petition : Urge Wegmans to go cage-free!

We believe the routine animal cruelty at Wegmans Egg Farm is not only unnecessary, but inconsistent with Wegmans' self-appointed role as an industry leader in animal welfare. Other large national chains have stopped selling eggs from battery-caged hens, and Wegmans can too.
Please take a moment and send a message to Wegmans that unnecessary animal cruelty is unacceptable. We'll print out the signatures and hand-deliver them to Wegmans headquarters in Rochester, New York.

To: Danny Wegman, CEO, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.

As a Wegmans customer, I urge you to stop selling eggs from battery caged hens. Battery cages are simply too cruel for any socially responsible company to support. I hope you will follow the lead of national markets like Whole Foods and Wild Oats, which have adopted company-wide policies to only sell eggs from cage-free hens. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.