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, January 30, 2006

Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense

Promoting animal welfare through education, outreach, and volunteerism.

They are planning a showing of Wegmans Cruelty @ Cornell University. Anyone interested in helping them should contact them off their webpage.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Sen. Karen Peterson Introduces Bill
Taking Aim at Factory Farming of Egg-Laying Hens

The Humane Society of the United States Urges Delaware Legislature to Put the Chicken Before the Egg and Pass the Measure

WASHINGTON, DC (January 27, 2006)—Yesterday, Delaware Senator Karen Peterson introduced a bill that would provide the most basic humane protection for the state’s egg-laying hens: enough room merely to spread their wings. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) praised the proposed bill, asserting that egg producers who intensively confine their birds in restrictive battery cages should meet this bare minimum animal welfare standard.

According to Sen. Peterson, “The vast majority of Delaware’s chicken farmers don’t confine their birds in cages so overcrowded that they can barely move. However, some of our state’s egg-laying hens do suffer this cruel and inhumane fate, and this must come to an end.”

Egg-laying hens who are confined in battery cages are generally afforded so little space that they are unable even to spread their wings, let alone engage in other important natural behaviors such as nesting, foraging, perching, and dust bathing. Each caged chicken has less floor space than a single letter-sized sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year, leading to extremely high levels of stress and frustration.

“Confining birds so intensively that they can’t even fully extend their wings for months on end is inherently cruel,” asserts Paul Shapiro, The HSUS’s factory farming campaign manager. “We commend Senator Peterson for working to ensure that the Agriculture Code reflects the values of Delaware’s citizens and we strongly urge the legislature to move quickly to pass this bill.”

The fact that most caged laying hens can’t even spread their wings inside battery cages has played a significant role in the growing trend of consumers and supermarket chains moving away from any association with eggs from caged birds. For example, Trader Joe’s—which has a store location in Wilmington—is presently converting all of its brand eggs to cage-free. Other corporate leaders, such as Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, have already completely ended their sales of eggs from caged birds. And food service provider Bon Appétit, which serves 55 million meals each year in nearly 200 dining facilities, is also phasing out its use of battery-cage eggs.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research, and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy, and field work. The non-profit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives across the country. On the web at hsus.org.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vegan Momma

Wegman’s Cruelty

Wegman's petition

I went to UR-VEG website and saw Wegman’s video. I then went to the filmakers website and downloaded the video so I can include it on my website.

Wegman’s Cruelty film(Quicktime, 30 MB)
Take a look at the filmakers website.

When I read Wegman’s reasons for keeping chickens in battery cages it really bothered me. Having been raised with chickens I knew that their claims were inaccurate. How can you justify keeping animals in those conditions?

Thankfully I can write them write, sign petitions, or participate in demonstrations. Those are a few ways I can let them know that as a consumer I don’t support their decision.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


The Eating Well Film Festival

Grand Rapids, Mich., January 12, 2005 - Calvin College's Students for Compassionate Living (SCL) invites the public to take a look inside the factory farming industry with "Eating Well?: The Hidden Costs of Factory-Farmed Food," a mini-film festival held 8 p.m., Friday, January 20 at the Bytwerk Video Theater in Calvin's DeVos Communication Center. The film festival will feature "Wegman's Cruelty," a documentary by Compassionate Consumers of Rochester, N.Y., that exposes the conditions inside an "industry-standard" factory egg operation in upstate New York.

"An important part of our mission here at Calvin is to exercise compassion and good stewardship in our daily decision-making," said Dr. Matt Halteman, faculty liaison for the student group. "SCL was chartered in February, 2005 to support this mission through lectures, films, potlucks and other events that aim to foster a redemptive attitude toward non-human animals."

The event is co-sponsored by Farms Without Harm, a network of Michigan groups and citizens promoting safe sustainable farming; Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy, a local Media Watchdog organization that uses media education as an organizing tool for social change; and Uniting for Justice, a grassroots volunteer organization that promotes protection of the earth and compassion for its sentient beings through education and outreach.

Also showing at the film festival will be "The True Cost of Food," a cartoon short by The Sierra Club Consumption Committee and "The Video the Egg Industry Doesn't Want You to See" by Mercy For Animals in Columbus, Ohio.

Following the screening, there will be a discussion of the issues raised by the films, featuring Nathan Runkle, founder and executive director of Mercy For Animals, Nicole Matthews, founding member of Compassionate Consumers, and Gail Philbin, coordinator of Farms Without Harm. "We want people attending this event to understand the importance of knowing where their food comes from," said Philbin. "Films like these help consumers make informed choices about where to purchase their food."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Live in the Washington DC Area?

Wegmans Cruelty will be shown on DCTV in January 2006 at these times:

Wegman's Cruelty : Comcast Channel 95

Sun, Jan 1 at 12:30 pm
Tues, Jan 3 at 8:30 pm
Wed, Jan 4 at 10:30 pm
Sun, Jan 8 at 2:30 pm
Tues, Jan 10 at 10 pm
Wed, Jan 11 at 9:30 pm
Sun, Jan 15 at 1:30 pm
Tues, Jan 17 at 7:30 pm
Wed, Jan 18 at 8 pm
Sun, Jan 22 at 3 pm
Tues, Jan 24 at 10:30 pm
Sun, Jan 29 at 1 pm
Tues, Jan 31 at 8:30 pm
Wed, Feb 1 at 8:30 pm

Large Pa. egg farm hit with cruelty charges

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - One of the state's largest egg farms has been charged with animal cruelty after an investigator posing as an employee allegedly videotaped hens impaled by the cage wires and living in cages with the decomposing corpses of other hens.

The investigator, who is affiliated with the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, showed the videotape to a deputized humane society police officer, who filed charges against two officials at Esbenshade Farms on Monday.

Animal rights groups say it is the first time animal cruelty charges have been lodged against an egg farm in Pennsylvania, the nation's third-largest egg producer.

The state exempts a "normal agricultural operation" from animal cruelty laws, but animal rights groups say they plan to argue that practices at Esbenshade in Mount Joy, about 20 miles southeast of Harrisburg, were not normal.

"We're seeing something much more egregious than standard conditions," said Erica Meier, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Compassion Over Killing.

Paul Shapiro, the manager of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, said he believed the charges are the first nationally against an egg producer alleging cruelty as part of the normal living conditions for hens.

"This is definitely a precedent-setting case," he said.

Thirty-five counts of animal cruelty were filed against the farm's chief executive, H. Glenn Esbenshade, and a farm manager, Jay Musser. The farm referred calls to an official of an industry group to which it belongs, PennAg Industries Association.

Christian Herr, vice president of PennAg, questioned whether the investigator helped create the allegedly poor conditions by neglecting the chickens.

"The person who obtained the video did so while he was supposed to be performing his job, which would include addressing the needs of the birds within this particular facility," Herr said.

The videotape, which was made between Dec. 3-8, allegedly captured instances in which hens were impaled on wires from their cages; trapped and unable to get to food and water; and caged with decomposing corpses of other hens.

The defendants have 10 days to enter a plea. Punishment includes a fine of $50 to $750 for each count, plus the possibility of 90 days in jail.

Nationally, only about 2 or 3 percent of eggs come from cage-free hens, according to an estimate by United Egg Producers, whose members produce about 90 percent of the nation's eggs.

Most members of United Egg Producers subscribe to minimum guidelines for animal care and are audited for compliance. Esbenshade is not a member of the organization.


Compassion Over Killing investigation: http://www.cok.net/feat/paefi.php

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Activist group targets Wegmans:
Calling for boycott of eggs produced by caged hens in N.Y.

By Virginia Terhune
The Jeffersonian

Dressed in a chicken sit, an activist aims to catch the eye of Wegmanns customers in Hunt Valley. Ross is with the Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition.


Onlookers might say they'd have better things to do than put on a chicken suit and pass out fliers along Shawan Road on New Year's Day, but the activists in the suits say they have a good reason for being there.

They want people to stop buying eggs produced by Wegmans grocery store, which they claim come from hens living in extremely crowded, sometimes painful and lethal, conditions, a charge Wegmans refutes.

"We're just asking the public not to buy their eggs and to think about how animals are raised for food," said an activist, 22, a landscaper and part-time construction worker who lives in Pikesville.

This activist is a founding member of the Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition, which has been demonstrating since the Wegmans store opened in the Hunt Valley Towne Centre in early October.

The activists, several of whom are vegetarians opposed to factory farming, are encouraging customers not to buy the Wegmans brand eggs.

If you do buys eggs, they say, buy them from farms that produce eggs in cage-free (barn) or free-range (outdoor) conditions, options that Wegmans and other local supermarkets also offer.

They are also asking anyone who is concerned about the issue to fill out a Wegmans customer service card and sign a petition.

conditions on film

The activists also are distributing fliers and a DVD called "Wegmans Cruelty," produced by members of Compassionate Consumers, an activist group in Rochester, N.Y., where Wegmans is based. The DVD is available on the group's Web site.

The DVD includes a segment shot by three activists who illegally broke into the Wegmans egg farm in Wolcott, N.Y., in 2004 to document conditions. District Attorney Richard Healy of Wayne County subsequently headed an investigation that concluded Wegmans was not violating any of New York's animal-cruelty laws.

The activists were indicted by a grand jury in September and charged with third-degree trespassing, third-degree burglary and larceny. Their trial is set for March 20.

The Wegmans egg farm, which has been run by the Wadsworth family for three generations, houses up to 750,000 hens that supply eggs to Wegmans' nearly 70 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

The hens typically lay about one egg a day for 18 months before they are slaughtered. When they are 6 to 10 days old, the tips of their beaks are clipped and cauterized to prevent aggressive pecking.

The hens live in wire cages, where as many as seven fit into a space the size of a large file cabinet drawer.

The DVD footage shows hens crowded into cages with wire mesh floors, stacked several levels high, which, activists say, under the best of conditions would prevent the chickens from doing natural behaviors such as dust bathing.

Systems are in place to convey manure away from the cages, but the DVD shows a shot of a hen with manure on her head and also shows activists freeing hens with their necks stuck in the wire mesh, keeping them from food and water.

Activists also are shown pulling several dead, dried-out chicken carcasses from cage floors, where other chickens have been standing on the remains of their cage mates.

Activists claim the birds are forced to endure a lifetime of such conditions so that consumers can pay $1 for a dozen eggs instead of $2 or $3.

"The day that they're slaughtered is a release from a terrible existence, from a living hell, and all for low-priced food," Adam Durand, president of Compassionate Consumers and one of the activists facing charges, says in the DVD.

wegmans' response

The anti-cage campaign in Hunt Valley appears to have had "very little impact" on customers, said Jo Natale, director of media and consumer relations for Wegmans. "We sell a lot of eggs at the store."

People have not been filling out customer cards, and if they do ask about the eggs, they're given a flier that states Wegmans' position, a version of which is also on the company Web site.

Natale refutes the claim that the hens are treated inhumanely and questions whether all of the footage was shot in the Wegmans chicken houses.

"We do not believe all of these images come from our farm," she said.

She also said some of the information in the DVD is not true, referring to one of the activists holding up a hen with a swollen abdomen and implying it had an infection.

"That's what a bird looks like that is about ready to lay an egg," said Natale, who also refuted the scenes of dead hens that were left to rot in cages.

"A dead bird is possible, but it's not what I see on a regular basis," said Jason Wadsworth, who manages the farm, during a telephone conversation.

The DVD also shows gleaming black beetles crawling over manure piles. The beetles are deliberately introduced, along with wasps, to control flies, Natale said.

Natale said Wegmans meets or exceeds standards for cage space, food and air and water quality set by the United Egg Producers, based near Atlanta, which instituted a voluntary compliance program in 2002.

Members undergo a yearly audit, which Wegmans recently passed with a perfect score of 200 points, according to the audit report. Members who score less than perfectly are expected to make improvements, said Diane Storey, a spokeswoman for United Egg Producers.

Natale also said that Wegmans continues to upgrade its facilities.

"We're always trying to tap into whatever current science there is, which is always changing,'" she said.

United Egg Producers, for example, has increased the standard for floor space per hen from 48 square inches to 67 square inches.

Wegmans is meeting the standards by putting up to seven hens in a cage with floor space of 24 inches by 20 inches, Wadsworth said. Up to four birds are kept in cages measuring 20 by 16 inches.

Producers who use cages say the practice reduces the mortality rates of hens because it allows better control over predators. Wegmans says its mortality rates run about 8 percent compared with 20 to 40 percent for cage-free and free-range hens, Natale said.

Housing hens in cages also keeps them from manure, reducing the risk of disease, they say. Cage farming enables a consistent source of eggs for Wegmans stores, while also providing a source of clean, disease-free eggs and a cheap source of protein for consumers, according to Wegmans.

Natale also pointed out that from a business point of view, it's not in the best interests of the companyto mistreat its hens because that would translates into the production of fewer eggs.

"Wegmans is probably one of the best from the standpoint of animal welfare," said Benjamin Lucio- Martinez, a veterinarian with Cornell University who works with egg farmers, including Wegmans, to identify problems related to drops in production.

"Their mortality rates are low, the lights are not too bright, there's good ventilation and comfortable temperatures, and there's food and water available all the time," he said. "They do a very good job."

Lucio- Martinez said he occasionally sees dead birds during his visits but had not seen any decomposing in cages.

"There's use and abuse of animals, and I think Wegmans is using the chickens, not abusing them," he said.

Targeting Wegmans

Activists are quick to acknowledge Wegmans' reputation for selling quality food at affordable prices. Fortune also named it the best place to work in the country.

That's in fact why they're targeting the company - because it claims to have high standards and is in a position to set an example for other producers.

"It's really its only black spot," said Vladimir Konstantinov, one of the Hunt Valley activisits who lives in Reisterstown and works as a computer specialist for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"Personally, I think the company is excellent and one of the best companies to work for," he said. But "they're trying to produce the eggs as cheaply as possible, and it's the hens that suffer."

Activists also say that Wegmans is uniquely positioned to do something about the conditions because it is the only large chain that owns its own egg farm.

"They have every power to make that change," said Ross about the potential to go cage free.

Natale, however, the company has no plans to change its operations.

"We're not prepared to do that at this point," Natale said. "There are no plans to phase out cage production."

The Hunt Valley activists, meanwhile, say they plan to continue demonstrating until Wegmans considers talking about the issue.

Some recognize that many consumers don't want to delve too deeply into how their food is produced.

"It's not an easy sell; people don't really want to hear it," said Bob Pyle of Catonsville, one of the activists and a longtime vegetarian who owns a company that cleans and repairs gutters.

Other activists say the more people learn about factory farming, the more they are likely to get involved.

"The more you know, the more upset you become - you feel like doing something," said Stewart Lyons, a lawyer in the Public Defenders Office in Towson who wore one of the chicken suits on New Year's Day.

"The birds are in living hell, they suffer," he said.

E-mail Virginia Terhune at Virginia Terhune@patuxent.com

Colleen Wegman making her mark on the family business

Fourth generation adapts to new role

By Frank Bilovsky
Staff writer

Hey Colleen, what did you think of Wegmans Cruelty? You don't buy the lies from your PR department, do you? What are you going to do about the egg farm that has embarrassed your company so much?


Lancaster County Egg Farm Is Cited for Animal Cruelty
By Harold Brubaker
Printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 10, 2006

The owner and the manager of a Lancaster County egg farm were charged yesterday with 35 counts of animal cruelty in a case reflecting a national battle between animal-rights advocates and agribusiness over the treatment of laying hens.

Video shot by an animal-rights activist employed at Esbenshade Farms in Mount Joy for 10 days last fall showed hens impaled on loose wires, hens unable to eat or drink because they were entangled in the wire cages, and hens left to die in aisles without food and water.

Johnna Seeton, the Pennsylvania humane society police officer who filed the citations with a district justice in Elizabethtown, described the conditions for the estimated 600,000 laying hens on the farm as "very, very bad."

Seeton is authorized to initiate criminal proceedings in her capacity with the humane society.

Esbenshade Farms, which is among the largest egg producers in Pennsylvania, with nearly 2.3 million hens, had no comment.

The charges brought yesterday are part of campaigns by animal-advocacy groups Compassion Over Killing and the Humane Society of the United States against the egg industry's practice of confining hens in wire cages without nests or room to stretch their wings.

"Every time consumers buy eggs from caged hens, they are supporting animal cruelty," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing.

United Egg Producers, an industry group whose members are responsible for 90 percent of commercial egg production in the United States, says the modern cage system is the only way to produce enough eggs to meet consumer demand while keeping prices low and protecting the birds' health and welfare.

Eggs from cage-free hens account for just 2 to 5 percent of the market, with the rest coming from caged birds, according to industry and other estimates.

Under pressure from Compassion Over Killing, the Better Business Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission, United Egg Producers agreed last fall to change the name of its animal-husbandry guidelines - along with the label that goes on certified egg cartons - from "Animal-Care Certified" to "United Egg Producers Certified."

Gene Gregory, senior vice president of United Egg Producers in Alpharetta, Ga., said Esbenshade Farms is not a member of his organization and is not certified.

Even under accepted industry standards, "laying hens are the most intensively confined animals in all of agribusiness," said Paul Shapiro, manager of the Humane Society's factory farming campaign.

As more Americans think about where their food comes from and are willing to pay more for products with special attributes, sales of eggs from cage-free hens are increasing sharply.

"In cage-free, I'm up 20 percent this year," said Nick Sborlini, dairy category manager for Acme Markets. The price difference is substantial, with Acme-brand large eggs selling for $1.39 yesterday in Bala Cynwyd, compared with $3.39 for cage-free eggs from Eggland's Best, which is based in King of Prussia.

As the third-largest egg-producing state in the nation behind Iowa and Ohio, Pennsylvania has a large stake in this shift in the market because of huge investments in cage systems.

Pennsylvania produced 545 million eggs in November from 24.1 million hens, or about 7 percent of the U.S. total of 7.54 billion eggs from 347 million layers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania companies, such as Westfield Egg Farm in New Holland and Giving Nature Foods in Newtown, are tapping into the growing market for eggs from cage-free hens.

"In the past year, we've had a 30 percent increase," thanks to new accounts, such as Wegman's, said Ronald Rohrer of Westfield.

Westfield has been in business since 1962, and started raising cage-free hens more than 15 years ago. The family-owned company now purchases eggs from 35 small farmers with a total of roughly 300,000 hens in cage-free houses.

Rohrer said a cage-free operation "makes for a healthier bird."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wegmans Cruelty Demonstration Tour!

Stops in Princeton, NJ; Ocean, NJ; Allentown, PA; Dulles, VA; and other stores! Get on board!