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, November 11, 2005

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. •

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