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.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cage-free is the way to be
A UDS move to cage-free eggs would help send a clear message to the egg industry.

Minnesota Daily

November 28, 2005

Recently the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly released a position statement asking University Dining Services to switch from caged-poultry eggs to “cage-free” eggs, which are laid by hens not housed in cramped factory-style cages. GAPSA has made a good case for the switch. Aside from supporting practices in the poultry industry that are more humane than “battery cages,” UDS would be supporting local poultry farmers who use these practices.

Many animal welfare and rights organizations have described the “evils” of caged layer-hen management. It is true that many operations cram far too many hens into tiny cages where they are not able to stand, stretch or turn around comfortably. There are more acceptable ways to keep layer hens, including indoor roosts and free range, both of which allow enough floor space for the hens to move naturally and comfortably. Some even afford them the ability to dust-bathe, which can greatly improve their mental state. All these improvements do come at a cost, but a small one. Eggs from certified humane operations cost approximately 7 cents more than eggs from caged operations. This is an easily absorbed cost for UDS and for a university as large as this one, moving toward a policy of using cage-free eggs would send a huge message to the poultry industry.

It is not necessary to become a vegan to support humane treatment of animals; University students can simply advocate for purchasing their food from farms that treat their animals humanely. Students can look up information through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, as well as Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving farm animal welfare and management through setting program standards operations can choose to meet.

It is not necessary to become a vegan to support humane treatment of animals; University students can simply advocate for purchasing their food from farms that treat their animals humanely. Students can look up information through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, as well as Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving farm animal welfare and management through setting program standards operations can choose to meet.

Hopefully, UDS will take GAPSA’s position statement seriously and will consider the switch to cage-free eggs. The small savings gained through using battery-cage eggs is not worth the potential for pain and suffering of the animals. We should wait no longer to make the change.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Video of Wegmans Corporate Demonstration Now Available

11/18 Wegmans Headquarters Demo Report

On Friday, November 18 activists from all over New York gathered at Wegmans Corporate Headquarters in Rochester. The activists braved thecold and snow for two hours to send Wegmans a message, loud and clear: We won't go away until your farm goes CAGE-FREE!

Activists came from as far away as Syracuse and Ithaca. They held signs reading "Wegmans Hens Deserve Better" and poster-size photos of thecruel treatment of hens at Wegmans Egg Farm. The signs were clearly visible even in the last hour of the demonstration as the sun set.
Copies of "Wegmans Cruelty" were continually given out to cars stopped at the adjacent traffic light. Reaction from motorists was generallygood.

Compassionate Consumers would like to thank everyone who turned out for the event, as well as the Gates Police, who gave valuable consultationbeforehand. Community Animal Project of Syracuse also desrves thanks for its efforts.

Friday's demonstration let Wegmans know there are many people who want the company to live up to its reputation as a forward-thinkingorganization. In months to come we will all keep the pressure on Wegmans.
Group takes egg farm protest to Wegmans' HQ

Alan Morrell
Democrat and Chronicle Staff writer

(November 19, 2005) — About 35 people protested Friday in front of Wegmans Food Markets' headquarters on Brooks Avenue about the company's egg farm in Wolcott, Wayne County.

"We decided to take our message to the decision-makers," said Ryan Merkley, coordinator for Compassionate Consumers, who are demanding that Wegmans sell only cage-free eggs. "We're asking them to improve the lives of 700,000 hens in Wolcott who live in squalor."

The group has protested at Wegmans stores in recent months. Three members of the group were indicted on trespassing charges for allegedly breaking into the egg farm in 2004 and videotaping conditions there. Wegmans officials have disputed whether those images, which have been compiled into a videotape, were from the company's egg farm.

"If Wegmans was treating dogs and cats like the chickens, they would be indicted on animal-cruelty charges," Merkley said.

Company spokeswoman Jo Natale said Wegmans Egg Farm recently received a perfect score from a USDA audit, with guidelines established by a panel of animal welfare experts. Wegmans also offers a choice of cage-free eggs, she said.

"We want to assure customers ... that we adhere to the principles that define who we are over the past 89 years," she said.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Former Student Will Present "Wegmans Cruelty"

Rochester, NY (November 14, 2005) - The documentary "Wegmans Cruelty" makes its premiere this Thursday night at the University of Rochester, where Wegmans President Colleen Wegman received her Business degree in 2000. CEO Danny Wegman is a Senior Trustee of UR.

"Wegmans Cruelty" is an investigation of animal abuse at the egg facility owned and operated by Wegmans Food Markets in Wolcott, NY. Since its release in July, the film has garnered the attention of consumer and animal advocacy groups nationwide.

Thursday's screening will be presented by former UR undergraduate Ryan Merkley. Merkley is currently Campaign Coordinator for the Rochester-based consumer advocacy group Compassionate Consumers, which produced the film. The screening is sponsored by the UR Vegetarian Education Group (UR-VEG).

Date: Thursday, 17 November
Time: 5:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hoyt Auditorium, UR River Campus

Investigators for Compassionate Consumers found hens at theWegmans Egg Farm covered with feces and open sores, birdsforced to sleep atop decomposed corpses, beak mutilations,and hens drowning in liquid manure. They rescued nine sick or dying hens from the facility.

"I hope for many UR students this film opens their eyes to the cruelty that takes place at Wegmans' farm," said UR junior Joseph Martinez. "I was shocked when I first watched it."

In recent months, screenings of the documentary in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse have attracted hundreds ofpeople. In September, a screening of the film at Rochester's Little Theatre drew 128 people to the famed venue; last month's premiere at the Rochester Institute of Technology drew 135.

Since the film's release the campaign headed by Compassionate Consumers has grown steadily. Groups in Ithaca, Syracuse, Buffalo, Baltimore, and elsewhere have all urged Wegmans to stop the cruel use of battery cages at itsWolcott facility.National organizations have also taken notice.

In July, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal welfare organization, urged Wegmans to phaseout battery cages and discontinue the use of misleading eggadvertising. The HSUS 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 markets, Whole Foods and Wild Oats, decided to go cage-free. And just last week, organic food chain Trader Joe's agreed to make its own brand of eggs cage-free.

In response to student concerns, this September the University of Rochester removed battery cage eggs from all foods prepared on campus. UR-VEG and Compassionate Consumers are now asking Wegmans to follow suit and phaseout the use of battery cages at their Wolcott facility. Sofar, volunteers at UR have gathered over 1,000 signatures insupport of the effort.

For more information, visit: http://urveg.org

Contact: Hoss Firooznia

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Rochester, NY (November 15, 2005) – This Friday over 50 activists from across New York State will gather at Wegmans Corporate Headquarters in Rochester. Carloads of people will arrive from Ithaca, Syracuse, Buffalo, as well as around the Rochester area. Demonstrators will hold signs reading “Wegmans Hens Deserve Better” and “Wegmans Go Cage-Free”, as well as poster-size full color photographs from within Wegmans Egg Farm in Woclott, NY. The activists are asking the company to phase out the cruel use of battery cages at its egg facility.

Date: Friday, 18 November
Time: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Place: Wegmans Corporate Headquarters, 1500 Brooks Ave., Rochester, NY

Wegmans has continually denied that it mistreats animals at its egg farm. Yet a recent update to the company’s website states that University of California at Davis professor Dr. Joy Mench is being consulted by the company to make recommendations for improvements at Wegmans Egg Farm. Activists want Wegmans to know that they are asking that this consultation lead to real improvements in the lives of the hens at the company’s facility.

“We want the decision-makers at Wegmans to know we won’t go away until they phase out these cruel cages,” said Rochester activist Nicole Matthews. “And we hope to inform many employees as to what is really going on at the company’s egg facility.”

Last year Rochester-based 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.

In recent months, screenings of “Wegmans Cruelty” in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse have attracted hundreds of people. In September a screening of the film at The Little Theatres in downtown Rochester attracted 128 people to the famed venue. Last month the Rochester Institute of Technology premiere of the film drew 135 people.

National organizations have taken notice of the campaign. 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 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 markets, Whole Foods and Wild Oats, decided to go cage-free. And just last week, organic food chain Trader Joe's agreed to make its own brand of eggs 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.

For more information visit: www.WegmansCruelty.com

Ryan Merkley, 585-410-0773, ryan@compassionateconsumers.org
Shawn DeLeo, 315-491-4699, ffurter469@aol.com

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Star Activist Exposes Cruel Egg Industry

Every college student understands the meaning of a busy schedule; what with class, papers, projects, and work, there's barely enough time to par … uh, I mean … call home! But peta2 activists know that dedicating even a few hours a week to leafleting, tabling, or protesting can make a world of difference for animals suffering in factory farms, laboratories, and the entertainment industry.

Melanie Ippolito is one star activist who has taken her dedication to a whole new level. This fearless student helped found a group called Compassionate Consumers, which set off to investigate where the eggs in their local grocery stores come from. In a series of rescues, Melanie found chickens who were living in the most filthy and miserable conditions imaginable. Chickens were crammed into battery cages so small that they were unable to spread even a single wing; they were covered with feces and forced to live amid the rotting corpses of other birds. Many of the birds were obviously dying or neglected and had to be rushed to an emergency veterinarian. To call attention to this cruelty, Melanie and her crew have since put together a documentary and have been working hard to get the word out.

Unfortunately, the conditions that Melanie and her group observed at the egg farm are not out of the ordinary. The 245 million chickens raised for their eggs in the United States live the exact same nightmare. Most have their beaks cut off with a burning-hot blade without any painkillers and undergo a procedure called “forced molting,” where they are deprived of food and water for up to two weeks to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle. Not exactly Old MacDonald's farm.

What You Can Do

If you aren't comfortable with supporting so much suffering (who would be?), consider a vegan diet. Check out all the grub you can feast on without making life miserable for chickens. But don't stop there! Print out some of our “Where Do Eggs Come From?” leaflets to give to your friends—or better yet, show Melanie some love by forwarding her video along. A little education never hurt anyone.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Wegmans Egg Farm
(updated 11-07-2005)

. . Continuous Improvement

Over the next year, we will be working with Dr. Joy Mench, professor of animal science at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Mench, is an expert in animal behavior who recently co-authored the book "Poultry Behaviour and Welfare." She will examine our egg farm operation and make recommendations for improvement if necessary.

We are also continuing to work with Dr. Benjamin Lucio, who visits our farm and monitors the health and well being of our hens regularly as part of Cornell University's Poultry Diagnostic and Extension Service.

What does Dr. Mench say about production methods like Wegmans?

Dr. Mench on Battery Cages (UEP guidelines recommend barren battery cages.)

Note: Dr. Mench sat on the UEP’s advisory committee for its animal welfare guidelines, which recommend 67 square inches of cage space per bird for white laying hens, an amount of space Dr. Mench calls “meager”:

“The recommended space allowance for laying hens in some countries is 60-80 square inches per hen, barely enough for the hen to turn around and not enough for her to perform normal comfort behaviors; however, many hens are allowed less than even that meager amount.”(12)

“Battery cages provide an inadequate environment for nesting, lacking both sites which fit these criteria [concealment and separation from other birds] as well as substrates for nest-building. Hens housed in battery cages display agitated pacing and escape behaviors which last for 2 to 4 hours prior to oviposition.”(13)

“A different decision about the minimum recommendation would have been reached had the committee given more weight to the information from the preference testing and use of space studies, since these indicate that hens need and want more space than 72 square inches.”(14)

Dr. Mench on “Beak Trimming” (UEP guidelines recommend “beak trimming” without painkiller.)

“There is mounting evidence that beak trimming also results in behavioral and neurophysiological changes indicative of acute and chronic pain. … Both beak trimmed chicks and adults display difficulty in grasping and swallowing feed even when their pecking rates are high.”(15)

Mench: “Chickens explore their environment with their beaks. They like to pick things up, and that’s their main way of exploring and touching and feeling things.”

NPR: “So, cutting off the beak is a big deal, if you’re a hen?”

Mench: “It’s definitely a big deal.”(16)

Dr. Mench on Forced Molting (UEP guidelines do not prohibit forced molting.)

“The bird is starved. Yes, the bird is starved. I don’t like to see hungry animals not being given food.”(17)

“Feed restriction and deprivation can thus lead to boredom and the development of stereotypies and vices.”(18)

Compassionate Consumers Combat Cruelty

by Krister Rollins
November 11, 2005
RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) Reporter Magazine Online

Under the cover of night, Adam Durand (RIT film and animation alumnus), Megan Cosgrove, and Melanie Ippolito slipped into the Wegmans Egg Farm through a vent into the manure pits. Inside, they discovered hens stuck in the wire mesh of the cages, hens who had escaped and were running around in the manure pits and even dead hens in the cages with the live birds. There were birds swollen with fluid, covered in feces, and in various states of filth.

Durand, Cosgrove, and Ippolito are all members of Compassionate Consumers. Considered both a consumer and animal advocacy group, they seek to inform the public about some of the horrors of animal rearing. They encourage vegan or vegetarian diets and humane choices for those of us who likes our meat. Their documentary, Wegmans Cruelty was screened in the Golisano Building on October 27, with 135 people in attendance.

The documentary is intended as an expository shocker. Eggs are staples of the breakfast table, essential at Easter, and a cherished tool of the rebelling youth. To see the cramped and dirty conditions where the chickens lay eggs is an eye-opener, to say the least. Wegmans Cruelty is the loaded gun being handed to the consumer. It’s a call to arms. What’s the solution? “Go cage-free,” offers Ryan Merkley, Campaign Coordinator for Wegmans Cruelty. What does that mean? Removing the battery cages, for one. A tiered barn where the chickens have room to move around is a possible solution.

The space, however, that would be needed for all 700,000 chickens currently housed at the egg farm to become free range, by my calculations, is 280 square miles. That’s a third of Monroe County.

When I called Wegmans and spoke with a pleasant lady at Consumer Affairs, she simply directed me to the Wegmans website (www.wegmans.com), where you can find the company’s official response to the charges of cruelty put forth by Compassionate Consumers. Wegmans has “serious doubts as to whether all the images come from our farm.” The mortality rate of the chickens at the farm is less than 8% (in a free-range environment, you can expect 20 to 40% of the chickens to die). An independent veterinarian states that the farm, located in Wayne County, is among the best in the country.

The United Egg Producers (UEP) is a trade association with a program that regulates egg and poultry production. According to Mitch Head, spokesman for the UEP, membership is voluntary and participants must submit monthly reports as well as be inspected by an independent person, usually a worker of the United States Department of Agriculture. Wegmans standards meet and exceed those set by the UEP, even though compliance is not mandatory until 2007.

UEP recently mandated that every hen have a minimum of 67 inches, as opposed to the current 48 inches. Police came in and investigated the farm after Compassionate Consumers explored the conditions, but no charges were brought against Wegmans.

Why was Wegmans selected as a target? In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Wegmans was voted the number one company to work for. They employ 32,000 people in 69 locations ranging from New York to northern Virginia. Last year, they donated 14 million pounds of food to food banks and pantries. “We thought Wegmans was a forward-thinking company with the power to change and do the right thing,” says Durand. “Guess we were wrong.”

Wegmans is pursuing legal action against the three trespassers. Cosgrove, Durand, and Ippolito face trespassing and felony burglary charges and a potential of seven years in jail. Durand, the president of Compassionate Consumers, is dedicated to his cause and according to his sister, Megan (he is not allowed to talk to the press), will serve the time should push come to shove.

Want to do something? Visit www.wegmanscruelty.com, www.compassionateconsumers.org or contact Wegmans. You can call 1-800-WEGMANS, visit them at www.wegmans.com, or fill out a customer comment card next time you go in. •

Post your feedback here!
Letter to the Editor, Finger Lakes Times (Geneva NY), 11/7/05

Adam Durand, Melanie Ippolito and Megan Cosgrove were recently indicted by a Wayne County grand jury for burglary, larceny and trespass in connection with their unauthorized visits to Wegman's Egg Farm last year.

After the Compassionate Consumers members were unsuccessful in their efforts to hold Wegmans accountable, they released a graphic video of conditions at the 700,000 hen facility. The video depicts chickens crowded into filthy wire cages. Many birds were found dead in their cages. Live birds were discovered trapped in manure piles.

Compassionate Consumers also publicly accused Wegmans of using bird starvation strategies (induced molting) to shock the hens into laying more eggs, and of subjecting birds to painful beak trimming.

The trio took several injured hens and found homes for them. They recorded everything they saw and did, and gave this evidence to law enforcement officials. This is not what one would expect from "real" burglars.

I have tried unsuccessfully to persuade Wegmans to feed their lobsters, to always provide them space in which to move around, to never cook lobsters alive, and to provide customers with information on more humane slaughter methods.

Wegmans, which has done a lot of good for human welfare, needs to broaden its circle of compassion to include other species.The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it polite?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it all right?' And there comes a point when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor polite, nor popular, but one must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."

I thought about this while America honored the memory of Rosa Parks, whose disobedience of racial segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama, played a key role in advancing the cause of civil right for black Americans.I also thought about the words of Dr. King when I learned that Compassionate Consumers members were arrested for their efforts to help victimized hens.

Durand, Ippolito and Cosgrove are heroes who, like Parks and King, were willing to take great risks in order to fight against cruelty and injustice.

For further information, visit www.CompassionateConsumers.org. The DVD on Wegmans egg farm is at www.WegmansCruelty.com.

Canandaigua NY

Joel Freedman is Chair of the Public Education Committee and Director on the Board of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November 18: Demonstration at Wegmans Corporate Headquarters
Tuesday, 08 November 2005

On Friday, November 18 activists from all over New York will gather at Wegmans Corporate Headquarters in Rochester. The activists will be sending Wegmans a message, loud and clear: GO CAGE-FREE!

Date: 18 November
Time: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pmPlace: Wegmans Corporate Headquarters, 1500 Brooks Ave., Rochester, NY

Over 50 demonstrators are expected to turn out for the event, with some
coming from as far away as Ithaca. They will hold signs reading "Wegmans Hens Deserve Better" and poster-size photos of the cruel treatment of hens at Wegmans Egg Farm.

Organizers are asking that those attending the demonstration park on the shoulders of Deep Rock Rd. or other side streets and that everyone stay on public property.
University of Rochester Premiere: Wegmans Cruelty
November 17th (Thu) 5:30 and 7:00 p.m.
Hoyt Auditorium

Join us for the UR big-screen premiere of Wegmans Cruelty, the controversial documentary that exposes the dirty secrets of one of Rochester's largest corporations.
The film will screen at both 5:30 and 7:00 p.m., followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and free desserts! The film is subtitled for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people. All are welcome!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Your Thoughts On Battery Cages

E-Mails Sent To '7 On Your Side' By Dan Noyes

Nov. 8 - KGO - More than one hundred people have sent the I-Team e-mail since our story on battery cages first aired - from the Bay Area and across the country, and also overseas as far away as England, Italy, and Australia.
We're posting these e-mails here so you can read what people are thinking about this issue.

Thank you for covering the story on Trader Joe's and battery cages. This is an issue that is getting attention across the county. As a member of a local animal advocacy group in NY, we have focused on the same issue. We recently produced a documentary called "Wegmans Cruelty" about a local grocery store chain and its egg farm. Wegmans is the only grocery store chain in the country to produce its own brand of eggs from its own egg farm. If you provide me with your address, I'd be glad to send you a copy of our film.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Trader Joe's Embroiled In Egg Farming Dispute

When will there be more stories like this about Wegmans?

VIDEO: Battery Cages