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, October 12, 2005

Wegmans Under Pressure

Ithaca Times, 10/12/05, By: Jake McNamara



. . . Wegmans has been bearing the scorn of animal rights protestors in Ithaca, due to the . . filming of the short documentary Wegmans Cruelty in Wolcott, N.Y., which claimed to expose conditions in Wegmans' laying houses.

Protestors are now gathering weekly at Ithaca's Wegmans. Beeby said she appreciates that Wegmans is selling vegetarian and vegan food, but worries it is more about "tapping into a market" than in treating animals more kindly. Actually, she thinks Wegmans is a "horrible offender of animal rights."

The film shows chickens crammed into battery cages where they can barely move; it also shows some birds trapped in wire, under feeder trays and even in manure pits, where they have no access to food or water.

Those who filmed the documentary broke into Wegmans' laying houses, and, after Wegmans discovered their break-in, the filmakers were arrested and indicted on charges of numerous counts for entering the facility and taking nine hens they believed to be dying (two of which later did die).

Jo Natale, Wegmans' director of Media Relations, said she has seen the documentary. "Much of the information is inaccurate," she said, adding that in breaking into the laying houses, the protestors posed a biosecurity threat and violated the safety of the hens. "The mortality rate at our farm is less than 8 percent a year. Free range farms usually have a mortality rate of 20 to 40 percent."

When the documentary was released, Wegmans immediately issued a written response. There is a statement on its Web site that reads: "In the end, it was determined there was no evidence of animal abuse. The New York State Police and the Wayne County District Attorney's Office jointly conducted the investigation, and Wegmans fully cooperated."

Beeby does not believe most government institutions fairly assess animal rights, and she sees Wegmans' claim of a bioterrorism threat as a common excuse. But with current threats such as the avian bird flu now spreading rapidly across Asia, Wegmans keeps increasing its security and limiting the number of people allowed in its laying houses.

Natale and other Wegmans officials state doubts that the entire documentary was even filmed in Wegmans' laying houses. When asked why Wegmans' officials doubt the film's authenticity, Natale simply answered, "Because we know our farms."

Upon further questioning, Natale said she had never personally been inside the laying houses, citing "safety concerns." Natale did say she had been in many of Wegmans' other farming facilities.

As protestors continue to advocate for change in Wegmans' laying houses, Beeby and Winemiller are discussing other local animal rights issues. . . . The activists hope their march instilled in the community some inspiration to learn about animal rights issues.

"There's a lot more going on than a lot of people want to think about when they go to the grocery store," Winemiller said.

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