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

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

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