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, January 11, 2006

THIS PLACE SEEMS TO LOOK EXACTLY LIKE WEGMANS FARM . .

Large Pa. egg farm hit with cruelty charges

MARC LEVY
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.

ON THE NET

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

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