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, May 31, 2006

Reader feedback - 5.31.06


In a world filled with pain and suffering --- the war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, poverty in the City of Rochester --- we seem unable or unwilling to stop any of the misery. There is pain and suffering on a massive scale that we all have a part in, however. We Americans turn our heads away and are afraid to look at where our animal food comes from.

We know deep down that it is not a pretty picture. It is brutal, violent, ugly, bloody. What happens to the chickens, cows, pigs in our nation's factory farms is pure evil. The only people who do know what happens at these farms are the corporations who make millions off of these animals --- and the animal-rights advocates who have chosen not to look away.

Ninety-eight percent of our animal food comes from factory farming. More than nine billion animals are slaughtered each year in this country. A corporation can do anything it wants to a factory-farm animal; in some states, these animals are exempt from virtually all cruelty laws.

When someone like Adam Durand of Compassionate Consumers decides to commit civil disobedience --- sneaking into Wegman's egg factory farm --- to document and bring to light the pain and suffering of 750,000 chickens --- he should be applauded, not vindictively sentenced to six months in the Wayne County jail for the low-level misdemeanor of trespassing.

When the plight of animals has been brought to a whole new level --- when we acknowledge that they feel pain and fear --- we will all benefit. Think how inconceivable it will be to wage war, to let someone needlessly die of starvation in Africa, or have homeless people wandering the streets of Rochester, if we aren't even harming animals anymore. Then the selfless acts of people like Adam Durand will be viewed in the proper context.

Andrew Dunning, Rosedale Street, Rochester


Thank you for your May 10 article, "Of Food and Felonies." Adam Durand, who sneaked into one of the state's largest egg-producing operations, received a six-month jail sentence. This punishment seems very severe; the district attorney does not seem interested in real justice.

Mr. Durand deserves to be recognized for his courage to record numerous animal-cruelty violations at the plant. Consumers have a right to know about how the eggs they buy are produced. This egg farm supplies eggs to Wegmans.

William McMullin, Mt. Morris, Michigan

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Letters to the editor

(May 31, 2006)

Treat all animals with dignity, care

I have followed the activities of the group Compassionate Consumers for more than a year. I have viewed the Wegmans Cruelty video. The laws of this nation must be changed to protect the animals that we "pet" and also the animals that are consumed for food.

Any important change in this country seems to come only after some group or another "breaks the law." Why does it have to come to that?

The sentencing of Adam Durand to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service, $1,500 fine and six months jail time is absolutely a travesty of justice.

There are no words to describe how outraged I am at our justice system, a system that lets murderers and rapists walk the streets over and over again, forgives the CEOs of large corporations after they have ruined tens of thousands of lives, a system that put a young man who committed a misdemeanor, for the first time in his life, in jail.

The powers that be at Wegmans, Judge Dennis Kehoe and Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy should rethink this sentencing.

SATURDAY: Wegmans Pittsford Demo

This Saturday evening Compassionate Consumers will continue its weekly demonstrations while Adam is in jail! If you are going to the Helping Animal 101 conference in Rochester take that energy and join us at Wegmans Pittsford.

Date: Saturday, 3 June
Time: 6:45 pm
Place: Wegmans Pittsford, 3195 Monroe Ave., Rochester, NY

Monday, May 29, 2006
The Times of Wayne County

Judge Kehoe sentences Wegman's Egg Farm trespasser to 6 months in jail

Following a tersely worded statement by Wayne County Judge Dennis Kehoe, the proclaimed animal rights activist, Adam Durand, was sentenced on Tuesday to six months in the Wayne County Jail, one year probation, 100 hours of community service and fined $1500.

The tough sentence was not expected by the Durand, or his defense lawyers. District Attorney Rick Healy, himself an animal lover, opted not to suggest a sentence for Durand, rather referred the Court to letters submitted by the Wegman's organization, asking that Durand serve jail time.

Durand, along with fellow animal rights activists Melanie Ippolito, and Megan Cosgrove, admit they broke into the Wegman's Egg farm in the Town of Wolcott. The group bemoaned the poultry industry and called for an investigation into conditions at the farm. Durand started and was president of a Rochester based group called Compassionate Consumers.

The group's goal was to show what they considered as the poor treatment and exploitation of chickens on the massive scale. They videotaped their break-ins and put the video on the Internet.

Arrested last August, both Ippolito and Cosgrove eventually pled guilty to trespass, but Durand decided to take the charges of Petit Larceny and Burglary.

During a jury trial earlier this month, Durand, age 26, of Rochester, was acquitted of the Burglary and Petit larceny charges, but found guilty of three counts of trespass in the 3rd Degree. He, Ippolito and Cosgrove broke into the farm [on] three different occasions[s] and admitted removing 11 sick birds during their trips.

Following his acquittal on the more serious charges, Durand, in a newspaper interview, said his group would continue pressure on the Rochester based grocery chain and stated the move by the jury would "embolden our efforts".

In his statement before sentencing Kehoe stated:

Mr. Durand, we live in a society where the rule of law means something. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways of making one's voice heard on issues that concern them. While the law allows you to picket a store on public sidewalks, it does not allow you to break into a company's hen house.

Breaking into someone else's property - whether it is to further one's own political agenda or not - is not just wrong, it is a crime. If we wish to continue to live in society that values the rule of law, and I do, as opposed to one where people pick and choose which laws they want to follow, there must be consequences from criminal acts.

I have always believed that criminal consequences should be more severe for those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and who continue to benefit from their criminal behavior.

In your case, you entered into your victim's hen house without permission or other lawful authority. You did this because you believed you were "above the law". You did not do this once, or even twice. You did this on three separate occasions. You did not make any of these unlawful intrusions on the spur of the moment, nor on a passing whim.

You planned your criminal activity well in advance, and carried out a carefully orchestrated scheme.

Although the jury found that you were not proven guilty of the crimes of burglary in the third degree and petit larceny on any of those three occasions, the undisputed proof at trial is that you did knowingly trespass on Wegman's property and take "personal property" on each of those occasions that did not belong to you, as evidenced by the fact that the first time two hens were removed in pillow cases, the second time two hens were removed in a card board box, and the third time seven hens were removed in a cage.

Your criminal acts were all thought out in advance. That is called, in legal parlance, "premeditation". I believe, from all that I have seen and heard in this case, that you are the "mastermind" behind the criminal activity involved here, and I believe you have a political agenda that results in your suffering from the erroneous delusion that your conviction is a "Red Badge of Courage", instead of "the Scarlet Letter" that it actually is. You now have on your criminal record, three separate criminal convictions. It is your co-defendants, however, who stepped forward and took responsibility for their actions, and as a result, they now have higher level criminal convictions than you.

During the trial, I noted that you testified that after entering the hen house illegally each time, you subsequently failed to contact any appropriate lawful authority about your concerns for the welfare of the hens at the Wegman's farm. Nor did you contact any lawful authority when your movie was produced or shown, or at any other time.

Had you truly cared about the hens at the Wegman's farm, you would have complained to local law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office, or the local affiliations for SPCA. You would have written to your Assemblymen, your State Senators, your U.S. Congressmen and your Federal Senators

You chose not to do that. Rather, you chose to attack Wegman's by your video, your website, and verbal attacks in the press. Our society values the rule of law and we are a nation of laws. The legitimacy of the video, which you claim was completely filmed at the Wegmans facility, has never been substantiated. Nor has Wegmans had an opportunity to challenge the veracity of the film, because Wegman's was not on trial.

Society rejected vigilantism many years ago, and I believe we should not return there any time soon.

I believe you have a political agenda that clouds your thought process to such an extent that you believe you can violate the law with impunity and that you are justified in doing so. Not only did you violate the law, your conduct and that of your co-defendants demonstrated a total ignorance on your part and theirs of bio-security measures recommended by such government agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and as implemented by Wegman's at their egg facility. I believe your inexcusable conduct placed the very birds you claim to be working to protect at risk for various diseases and death on a mammoth scale. Not only did you place the hens at great risk on three separate occasions, the economic loss to your victim, as well as the surrounding community could have been enormous as a result of bold, blatant, and careless premeditated illegal conduct.

You should not assume that the jury's not guilty verdicts as to the Burglary and Petit Larceny charges were an indication that they condoned illegal conduct. The jury, like I, took a solemn oath to follow the law and render a verdict based on the law and the proof at trial. They did not have the luxury of disregarding the law any more than you or I do, Mr. Durand. There should be no mistake here, in your mind or anybody else's mind.

The victim in this matter is Wegman's, whose reputation you sought to damage, both with the consumers and in the business world.

You have made arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification. You have demonstrated by word and action your obvious disdain for your victim and the laws of the State of New York.

I do have several regrets. I believe you are in possession of, and have disseminated to your followers, what I would best describe as contraband. I would like to be able to order you to recover and destroy all of your illegally obtained and perhaps inaccurate videos, but unlike you, I will follow the law. The Son of Sam law does not appear to apply to this case, and I could find no other authority for such an order. It is my hope that your state legislature will someday pass the necessary legislation to further deter criminal conduct such as yours. My other regret is that I cannot hold you and your companions financially responsible for the massive costs already incurred by Wegman's, and to be incurred by other industries as well, in order to protect themselves and society from your unlawful conduct.

I am concerned that any sentence imposed by me which does not include jail time, might be perceived by you as tacit approval by this Court of your clearly illegal conduct, now and in the future, as long as such conduct can be tied to some value that you, the law breaker, perceives as a higher law. If you believe that to be the case here sir, you are mistaken.

Following his sentencing, his attorney said they may appeal.

Since the sentencing, Healy has received a number of letters, faxes and phone calls from Durand supporters from around the world, bemoaning the sentencing and actions of the court.

Durand received 60 days for each of his convictions. He would be eligible for release in four months with good behavior.

Industry Front Groups' Reactions to Adam Durand's Sentence and Wegmans' Cruelty:

Animal Agriculture Alliance, May 19, 2006, "Animal rights extremist convicted of three counts of criminal trespass two colleagues pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and petit larceny"

Center for Consumer Freedom (AKA the Center for Consumer Deception, a front group for the tobacco, alcohol, animal agriculture and fast food industry), "Putting People Over Poultry"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 30: Animal Voices Radio Interview With Ryan Merkley

ARCHIVED HERE: http://www.animalvoices.ca/shows/ryan_merkley

This Tuesday, May 30 the Toronto-based Animal Voices radio show will feature a live interview with Ryan Merkley, Campaign Coordinator for Compassionate Consumers. Ryan will discuss the investigation of Wegmans Egg Farm, the campaign, and Adam's sentencing.

The show will air at 11:00 am Tuesday.

You can listen live online here:
(Click the "LISTEN" icon in the upper right corner.)

If you miss the show, it will be archived on the Animal Voices website:

Animal Voices Radio, live every Tuesday at 11 am-12 pm EST. Listen worldwide at http://www.ciut.fm, Canada-wide on Star Choice 826, or in the local Toronto area at CIUT 89.5 FM. Archived shows and additional info are available at http://www.animalvoices.ca. Also available for podcasting.

On Tuesday, May 30th Animal Voices:

Scrambled, over-easy, fried, and mixed into baking, eggs are classic comfort foods. The industry claim that "only content animals are productive animals" seems logical enough, and with heavy security restrictions for battery cage facilities, few consumers understand how such staples materialize.

Starting from the premise that consumers have a right to know how their food is produced, animal advocates document what is hidden from view. Between the rows of stacked hens and over the piles of manure, they bear witness to what happens when economics intersect with animal welfare. Today, join us for a conversation with Ryan Merkley, Campaign Coordinator for Compassionate Consumers. He'll tell us about the Wegmans' Egg Farm investigation, including what they saw, what the industry reps say, and how the rescued hens recovered. Also, learn why one of the members was sentenced to six months in jail for his role in bringing a cruelty of unfathomable magnitude to light.

Wegmans Egg Farm facility, located in New York State, houses 750,000 egg-laying hens. According to Compassionate Consumers, the conditions there are representative of egg production throughout the United States.

But are these conditions similar to the Canadian egg industry? Bruce Passmore, the Farm Animal Welfare Project Coordinator with the Vancouver Humane Society, will provide an overview of Canadian egg production and share some insights on chicken sentience and consciousness.

Curious about the investigation? Watch the complete video "Wegmans
Cruelty' here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6598954012979330894

Compassionate Consumers:

Wegmans Cruelty site:

Vancouver Humane Society:
Wegmans Cruelty Demonstrations in Northern Virginia

A note from Hannah (email her here)!

Hello everyone! I will be organizing weekly demos at the Fairfax, VA Wegman's beginning next week. Anyone interested in helping out is invited - please send me a message! Here are some photos from today:

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Animal Rights Activist to be Resentenced
13 WHAM NEWS, Watch Video
Last Update: 5/26/2006 7:11:34 PM

(Lyons, N.Y.) – The animal rights activist convicted of trespassing on Wegman’s egg farm will be resentenced next month. Adam Durand will go to jail for six months. However, a judge decided he won’t have to serve probation in addition to the jail time. Durand sneaked into the Wayne County farm to film a documentary about animal abuse.

Durand admitted going to the egg farm to take pictures that were used in a documentary called “Wegmans Cruelty.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Memorial Day Demonstrations: Rochester, Ithaca, Syracuse and Hunt Valley
Friday, 26 May 2006

Celebrate freedom this Memorial Day by standing up for someone who isn't free and by speaking up for 700,000 animals confined to barren, wire cages at Wegmans Egg Farm. Adam Durand will spend this weekend in jail for giving voice to the suffering of those animals. Please join one of these three demonstrations Sunday in following his example.

Date: Sunday, 28 May
Time: 1:45 pm
Place: Wegmans Ridgemont, 2833 Ridge Road West, Rochester, NY
For more info: ryan@compassionateconsumers.org

Date: Sunday, 28 May
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Place: Wegmans Hunt Valley, 122 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, MD
For more info: info@BaltimoreAnimalRights.com or 443-756-7344

Date: Sunday, 28 May
Time: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Place: Wegmans Ithaca, 500 South Meadow St., Ithaca, NY
Please RSVP: Campaign@FarmSanctuary.org

NEW: Another Wegmans demonstration will be held this Memorial Day weekend; this one in the Syracuse area.

Date: Monday, 29 May
Time: 12:00 noon
Place: Wegmans Dewitt, 6789 East Genesee St.,
Fayetteville, NY

Please do not park in Wegmans parking lots.

Reader feedback - 5.24.06


I was both shocked and appalled when I learned of Adam Durand's sentence last week. The overzealous aggression surrounding this case by Wegmans, WayneCounty, and Judge Kehoe reek of collusion to make sure the truth is suppressed, and Wegmans makes an example of anyone who would interfere with their bottom line. The squashing of evidence by the judge adds even more credibility to the premise that Mr. Durand is being made an example of by corporate America, and certainly does not hold true to the notion of pursuit of justice.

Since being enlightened on this subject, I have not purchased non-cage free eggs. Like most Americans, being ignorant about where consumables come from had been much easier for me than doing the right thing.

The people responsible for torturing these hens should be spending half a year in jail, not Mr. Durand. He should not be punished for making a morally and ethically, albeit illegal, choice. Adam Durand's trial and sentencing represents a gross miscarriage of justice, and all involved should be exposed and punished.

Matthew Metras, Vermont Street, Rochester


Thank you for carrying the article about the trial of Adam Durand, who was acquitted of burglary and larceny after filming the egregious animal cruelty at Wegmans Egg Farm ("Of Food and Felonies," May 10).

Durand's goal all along has been to bring to light the cruelty behind the egg carton. For doing this, Wegmans tried to silence Durand by pressing charges. City's article proves that those who expose the cruelty of modern egg factories like Wegmans' deserve our admiration. Wegmans should be spending its time and money to phase out the cruel use of battery cages instead of attacking the people who are working to inform consumers.

Ryan Merkley, Edmonds Street, Rochester

(Merkley is a spokesperson for the Compassionate Consumers activist group.)


"Of Food and Felonies" (May 10) about the court case involving activist Adam Durand and Wegmans did a nice job of highlighting our society's changing understanding of food. It's not just egg producers who we've allowed to adopt cruel farming practices in the name of profit. To maximize the amount of calories turned into flesh, pigs kept in gestation crates don't get to walk or even turn around.

Thankfully, there's been a shift toward returning decency to animal husbandry. Recently, the city of Chicago banned the sale of foiegras, unnaturally enlarged duck or goose liver produced by forced overfeeding.

A ballot initiative in Arizona seeks to ban the use of gestation crates in that state. And the increased number of vegetarian foods at local grocers is another promising sign. Despite the fact that it has a long way to go, it seems humanity is returning to our understanding and treatment of farm animals.

Jason Ketola, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Jailing a cage-free activist:

Adam Durand: the Rochesterian got an unusual sentence.

Krestia DeGeorge
City Newspaper, Rochester, NY
POSTED ON MAY 24, 2006:

Six months.

That's 180 days, and it's how long Adam Durand will have to mull over his decision to enter Wegmans' hen house while he sits in the WayneCounty jail.

Durand is an activist with the group Compassionate Consumers. In 2004, he, along with several other activists, went to Wegmans' egg farm in Wolcott on three occasions, shot video, and removed 11 hens they believed were ill or dying. Last year they released a DVD documentary titled "Wegmans Cruelty" based on the footage they gathered. The group contends that the conditions and practices they filmed on the company's egg farm amount to animal cruelty. (See "Of Food and Felonies," May 10).

Their efforts netted criminal charges for three of the activists. Two were offered plea bargains, which they took. But Durand, at the grocery chain's insistence, was put on trial earlier this month for 10 charges, including three for felony burglary. A jury acquitted him of all but three charges of criminal trespassing --- less than his co-defendants pled to. Last week, those convictions earned him 180 days in jail, plus $1,500 in fines, a year of probation, and 100 hours of community service.

The sentence wasn't the harshest that Judge Dennis Kehoe could've meted out --- the maximum for each count was 90 days, so Durand could have received up to nine months in jail --- but it was stiffer than some expected. "We don't expect any jail time," one of Durand's own lawyers, Len Egert, told the Associated Press after the jury's verdict. "It's just usually not given for a low-level offense like this."

But Judge Kehoe seems to have viewed the offense as anything but low-level. He took the step --- unusual in misdemeanor cases, but not in high-profile ones --- of writing a five-page statement, which he read aloud to Durand in the courtroom before sentencing him. The statement, provided to City Newspaper and other media outlets by District Attorney Rick Healy's office, outlines in detail the reasoning behind Kehoe's sentence.

"From the tone of it, it's very severe, and he gave it that way," says Healy. "It's unusual" for a judge to give a statement at sentencing, especially for such a relatively minor offense, Healy says.

If the tone of the statement is any indication, the judge felt strongly on the issue.

"I have always believed that criminal consequences should be more severe for those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and who continue to benefit from their criminal behavior," wrote Kehoe.

Durand, Kehoe said, believed he was "above the law," and Kehoe berated him for not contacting authorities if he had felt Wegmans practices were abusive.

"Society rejected vigilantism many years ago," wrote Kehoe, "and I believe we should not return there any time soon."

The judge seemed particularly upset by the video, which he said "has never been substantiated." Calling it "contraband," the judge expressed his desire to order the video destroyed, but said he could find no legal justification to do so. He also said he wished he could hold Durand and the other activists responsible for the cost of the security upgrades Wegmans has made since the break-ins. Wegmans spokesperson Jeanne Colleluori says that the company has spent $1 million securing the egg farm in the wake of the incidents.

Among other things, the company said it is worried that an intrusion like Durand's could introduce pathogens --- like avian flu --- capable of wiping out whole flocks of the company's birds. The judge specifically mentioned that concern in his statement.

It's not until his closing two sentences, however, that Kehoe directly addresses what to some is the most surprising part of his sentence: jail time.

"I am concerned that any sentence imposed by me which does not include jail time," Kehoe wrote, "might be perceived by you as tacit approval by this Court of your clearly illegal conduct, now and in the future, as long as such conduct can be tied to some value that you, the law breaker, perceives as a higher law."

But what's most interesting about Kehoe's statement is how closely it matches a victim-impact statement submitted to the court by Nixon Peabody attorney Christopher Thomas on behalf of Wegmans.

The statement prepared by Thomas "respectfully suggests" a 180-day jail sentence and a year of probation. And along with the fines and community service, that's what he got. According to Durand's attorneys, Wayne County's probation department had recommended a significantly milder sentence.

In addition to the sentence, plenty of Kehoe's points are similar to Thomas's. The Wegmans lawyer writes about the appropriateness of punishment "in cases where a defendant carefully plans how he will violate the law and the rights of others." Judge Kehoe told Durand: "You carefully planned your criminal activity well in advance, and carried out a carefully orchestrated scheme."

At times the match is almost word for word.

Thomas references Durand's "arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification and his obvious disdain for his victims." The judge has this to say: "You have made arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification. You have demonstrated by word and action your obvious disdain for your victim and the laws of the state of New York."

The judge even borrowed the Wegmans attorney's dubious literary analogy.

Durand "believes his conviction is a Red Badge of Courage instead of The Scarlet Letter that it actually is," wrote Thomas in a footnote.

Kehoe wrote that Durand's "political agenda" causes his "suffering from the erroneous delusion that your conviction is a 'Red Badge of Courage,' instead of 'the Scarlet Letter' that it actually is."

In a statement, Wegmans appeared to be satisfied with the sentence.

"We are relieved this is behind us," said the statement, "but we are also glad that a strong message has been sent that illegal entry onto private property will not be tolerated. We will continue to focus on the safety and security of our egg farm and its employees and protecting our birds."

Durand's lawyers seemed shocked.

"We were really surprised," says Len Egert, adding he'd never seen a sentence this harsh for a first-time offender.

Referring to the probation department's recommendations, he said: "To have the court completely reject that and go to the opposite extreme was very surprising and we think excessive."

Further, casting the episode as a matter of free speech, Egert hints that Durand's remarks to the media are what made his sentence as stiff as it was. To make that case, he points to the similarities between Kehoe's remarks and Wegmans' statement.

Although the judge steered clear of specifics in his mention of "arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification," the victim impact statement submitted by Wegmans' attorney repeatedly references Durand's remarks to the media. Exhibit A is a copy of the New York Times article on his verdict. The statement cites Durand's remarks to the Times after the verdict --- "We'll embolden our efforts," he told the paper --- in arguing for a jail sentence.

Did the judge take that argument into account? It's impossible to say, but the question worries Egert.

"That's very troubling to the extent that he bases his sentence on Adam's words or speech."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Letters to the Editor regarding Wegmans Cruelty
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Phase out cruelty at Wegmans farm
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Thank you for your article on Adam Durand, the investigator who exposed the egregious animal cruelty at Wegmans Egg Farm, and was sentenced to six months in jail. Durand should be celebrated, not sentenced, for his courageous efforts to bring to light the suffering of animals caused by Wegmans.

Wegmans requested the harsh sentence received by Durand — a first-time offender — in an obvious attempt to silence critics of the company's inhumane practices. Wegmans should be spending company time and money to phase out the cruel use of battery cages instead of attacking well-meaning individuals like Durand.

The writer is campaign coordinator, Compassionate Consumers.

Heroic Durand unfairly punished
Monday, May 22, 2006

Adam Durand, who exposed the cruelty of the Wegmans Egg Farm, has been sentenced to six months in prison. Clearly, the punishment does not fit the crime.

Durand sought to educate the public and encourage Wegmans, a company that many consider progressive, to adopt more humane ways of raising its egg-laying hens. No damage was done to the farm, and the few hens that were removed were all gravely ill and certainly not of any value to Wegmans.

While he did trespass on the farm property, a low-level misdemeanor offense, it is absurd that as a first-time offender that he serve time in jail. Instead, he should be commended for his efforts to inform the public about the suffering of animals perpetrated by Wegmans.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Erik's Diner Podcast

Ryan Merkley on Adam Durand Jailing
(May 18, 5:40 PM ET)

Today's podcast features an interview with Ryan Merkley, of WegmansCruelty.com, on this week's incarceration of Adam Durand. Adam directed the marvelous documentary Wegmans Cruelty.
Hounded, Cowed, & Badgered:
A blog on U.S. law and nonhuman animals

Wegmans activist gets six months jail

Contrary to defense counsel's earlier predictions, animal activist Adam Durand has been sentenced to six months in jail for entering an egg facility run by Wegmans. (Hat tip: AAFL.) An account by Jim Miller of the Finger Lakes Times sketches out the sentencing pronouncement, which is replete with the sort of intemperate language appellate criminal defense like to see when reading records, but which rarely win relief. The court specifically mentions Durand's "political agenda" and likens him to Hester Prynne. (She'd face a max of 3 months. N.Y. Penal Law 255.17, 70.15.) The judge obviously didn't like the justification defense at trial and cited Durand's "arrogant and self-righteous statements" as an aggravating factor.

The court further stated that Durand should have gone to the authorities if he suspected chickens were being mistreated. Journalist Miller supplies that the D.A.'s office investigated and found no cruelty. Surprise! The text of New York's cruelty law does not appear to prohibit factory farm conditions. Unlike many states, which explicitly exclude common agricultural practices, New York does not seem to do so. Nonetheless, confining an animal's movement and failing to take care of injured or dying animals are not within either the active prohibited conduct (overdrives, maims, etc.) or passive conduct (neglect of food or drink). Arguably, the broad equation of "torture" with suffering in the definitions section could allow a prosecution, but name the prosecutor's office that will pursue that case and we'll send them a package of Tofutti Cuties on us. No, the law does zero (or nearly zero) to protect farm animals. A call to the authorities would have been worthless.

Trial judge Kehoe also plays the hypocrisy card (or is it the terrorism one?), speculating about how Durand's entry--and the human germs he carries--could've caused "death [of hens] on a mammoth scale." The hens will be killed soon enough. We suppose this notion could be part of an "evils of the crime" analysis, but it reads more like a message from someone with a "political agenda" of his own.
An Open Letter Regarding Adam Durand

From: Matt Metras

Date: May 17, 2006 5:02 PM


I was both shocked and appalled when I learned of Mr. Durand's sentence today. The thought of being punished for doing the morally and ethically correct thing was very disturbing to me. Though there is no argument that what Mr. Durand did was legally wrong, his misdeeds are grossly outweighed by the good he has done for our community.

Before I saw the Wegmans Cruelty film, I never gave much thought to where my eggs came from. The footage I saw in the film made me physically ill. No animal, pet or potential food, should be kept in the conditions shown at the Wegmans egg farm. I frequently wonder how the persons responsible for the treatment of these chickens can sleep at night.

Wegmans has repeatedly gone on the record saying the footage was not of their farm, at the same time as they were pressing charges for trespassing and burglary. A logical person would ask how Wegmans could press charges for a person being on their property, while simultaneously insisting publicly the same person was never there.
The overzealous aggression surrounding this case by Wegmans, Wayne County and Judge Kehoe reek of collusion to make sure the truth is suppressed, and Wegmans makes an example of anyone who would interfere with their bottom line. The squashing of testimony and evidence by the judge adds even more credibility to the premise that Mr. Durand is being made an example of by corporate America, and certainly does not hold true to the notion of pursuit of justice.

Since being enlightened on this subject, I have not purchased non-cage free eggs. Like most Americans, being ignorant about where consumables come from was much easier than doing the right thing. I have never met Mr. Durand, but I can sympathize with him. The people responsible for torturing these hens should be spending half a year in jail, not Mr. Durand. He should not be punished for making a morally and ethically, albeit illegal, choice. Adam Durand's trial and sentencing represents a gross miscarriage of justice, and all involved should be exposed and punished.


Matthew Metras
Rochester, NY

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bullied and Now Behind Bars
A Farm Sanctuary Alert

Adam Durand, the Compassionate Consumers investigator who revealed egregious animal cruelty at Wegmans egg farm, was sentenced on Tuesday, May 16 to six months in jail for trespassing. This stiff sentence, and the failure of authorities to address the animal suffering documented at Wegmans' egg farm, represents an extreme miscarriage of justice. Adam Durand brought to light the suffering of animals at Wegmans egg farm, despite the company's erroneous claim that no evidence of animal abuse exists.

Wegmans asked for jail time and "Essentially, the judge gave [Durand] the exact sentence that Wegmans requested," according to attorney Len Egert. A jury acquitted Durand of burglary and larceny charges, but convicted him of trespassing. The Wayne County Probation office recommended only community service - yet Adam received six months in jail. "I think it's excessive, given the circumstances," Egert told the Associated Press. "This is a low-level misdemeanor offense and Adam has no prior criminal record. For Wegmans to come in and ask for the maximum and get it is disturbing."

The Finger Lakes Times reported that Judge Dennis Kehoe harshly called Adam "arrogant and self-righteous" and stated during sentencing that if the activists had truly cared about the hens, they would have contacted the authorities. In fact, the authorities were contacted! Farm Sanctuary first contacted Wayne County humane officer, Richard Gerbasi, on October 15, 2004 with evidence that we received on this case, including a letter describing the hens' conditions, a videotape showing the horrendous conditions of Wegmans egg farm in Wolcott, New York, and veterinarian necropsy reports. This officer then sent the evidence to District Attorney Richard Healy. Richard Gerbasi reported back to Farm Sanctuary in November that the D.A. was reluctant to prosecute Wegmans since he felt the conditions depicted on the evidence sent to him represented an isolated case. Farm Sanctuary then urged the D.A. on 11/24/04 to obtain a search warrant to make an unannounced visit to the facility. We never received a reply from him, but Farm Sanctuary was 'interviewed' by a criminal investigator with the New York State police.

Wegmans prides itself on good customer relations and satisfaction. However, unbeknownst to many of its shoppers, Wegmans has not only consistently denied the abuse and neglect of the hens at its private egg farm, it has attempted to bully Adam Durand by encouraging a judge to throw him behind bars.

You Can Help!

Please write polite letters to the prosecuting District Attorney and the presiding County Court Judge, expressing your concern for the injustice of not only failing to prosecute Wegmans for denying birds basic humane consideration, but for putting their rescuer behind bars!

District Attorney Richard Healy
Hall of Justice
Suite 202
Lyons, NY 14489
phone: 315-946-5905
fax: 315-946-5911

Hon. Dennis M. Kehoe
Wayne County Court
Wayne County Hall of Justice
Room 106
54 Broad Street
Lyons, NY 14489

Click Here to read history on this case.

For more information and to get involved, please contact: campaign@farmsanctuary.org

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Animal activist gets 6-month sentence

Misty Edgecomb
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Staff writer

(May 17, 2006) — Adam Durand, the Rochester man who broke into the Wegmans egg farm in Wayne County in 2004, is in jail.

Found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor trespassing earlier this month, Durand was sentenced Tuesday to six months in Wayne County Jail.

The sentence also included a year of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine.

Durand is a member of Compassionate Consumers, a Rochester animal advocacy group that has accused Wegmans Food Markets Inc. of not treating its chickens humanely.

He and two other members of the group trespassed at the Wolcott farm three times to videotape conditions.

"It's outrageous that they would give him six months. Adam should be applauded, not sent to jail for this," said Ryan Merkley, spokesman for the group.

But Judge Dennis Kehoe rebuked Durand in court, calling his acts "vigilantism" and expressing a desire to destroy Durand's videotapes.

"We are relieved this is behind us, but we are also glad a strong message was sent that illegal entry onto private property will not be tolerated," said Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale, reading from a prepared statement.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Animal Rights Activist Sentenced
Last Update: 5/16/2006 8:43:36 PM


(Rochester, NY) - Animal rights activist Adam Durand was sentenced Tuesday for trespassing on Wegmans egg farm in Wayne County.

He’ll go to jail for six months and pay a $1500 fine.

He went into the farm to film a documentary, claiming hens were kept in horrible conditions.

At sentencing, Judge Dennis Kehoe told Durand that Wegmans is the true victim and he wishes he could seize the documentary to keep Durand from benefiting from his crimes.

Animal-rights activist

who filmed egg farm
draws 6-month sentence

Associated Press Writer


May 16, 2006

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- An animal-rights activist drew a maximum six-month jail sentence Tuesday for sneaking onto New York state's largest egg farm to videotape thousands of chickens confined to small wire cages.

Adam Durand, 26, was convicted earlier this month on three counts of criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 90 days, fined $1,500, ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and placed on probation for a year.

Durand denied breaking into a shed during three nighttime visits in 2004, saying he climbed in through a hole in a wall. He also said he had no intention of removing birds from the farm operated by Rochester-based supermarket chain Wegmans where 700,000 hens produce more than a half-million eggs a day.

Two women who accompanied him took away 11 hens "because in every case they were sick or dying and there was just this feeling that they needed veterinary care," Durand testified during his three-day trial in Lyons, 40 miles east of Rochester.

Durand's lawyer, Len Egert, said he hadn't expected him to receive any jail time.

"I think it's excessive, given the circumstances," Egert said. "This is a low-level misdemeanor offense and Adam has no prior criminal record. For Wegmans to come in and ask for the maximum and get it is disturbing."

"This is a sentence that doesn't really fit the crime," echoed Ryan Merkley, campaign coordinator for an animal-rights group led by Durand called Compassionate Consumers. "He shouldn't be sentenced to jail, he should be applauded for his efforts to bring to light the kind of cruelty that's committed by Wegmans."

Two friends who accompanied Durand to the farm in Wolcott pleaded guilty to trespassing and petit larceny, both misdemeanors, and were placed on probation.

The trio were arrested last summer when Durand produced a short documentary titled "Wegmans Cruelty" that was screened at a Rochester movie house.

The film contained footage of hen corpses lying in cages with live hens, a few that had fallen into deep manure pits and others with their heads apparently caught in wire cages.

About 95 percent of the nation's eggs are produced at caged-hen egg farms. The poultry industry says the system cuts production costs and limits the animals' exposure to diseases.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

Egg farm trespasser gets 6 months in jail
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Finger Lakes Times, jmiller@fltimes.com

LYONS — Adam Durand was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail for trespassing on Wegmans’ Wolcott egg farm while he and other animal rights activists filmed conditions there in 2004.

Durand was immediately taken to the Wayne County Jail, but his attorney, who called the sentence excessive, said he may appeal.

Judge Dennis Kehoe, who called Durand the mastermind of a blatant and carefully orchestrated crime, fined him $1,500 yesterday and also sentenced him to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.

“You entered your victim’s hen house without permission,” Kehoe told Durand. “You did this because you believed you were above the law.”

Durand, president of the Rochester-based group Compassionate Consumers, en-tered the egg farm three times. He and the other activists took 11 hens that they believed were sick or dying and later released a movie titled “Wegmans Cruelty.”

But Wegmans representatives have said they’re proud of their farm, and District Attorney Richard Healy found no evidence of animal cruelty there.

A jury acquitted Durand of felony burglary and petty larceny charges but convicted him on three counts of trespassing, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of 90 days per count.

“I believe you have a political agenda that results in your suffering from the erroneous delusion that your conviction is a ‘Red Badge of Courage’ instead of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ that it actually is,” Kehoe said. “You have made arrogant and self-righteous statements of justification. You have demonstrated by word and action your obvious disdain for your victim and the laws of the state of New York.”

Durand’s attorney, Leonard Egert, said he’d never seen a first offender get the maximum sentence on a misdemeanor, as Durand did on two of the trespassing counts. Wayne County Probation had recommended only community service for Durand, but Wegmans asked for jail time, Egert said.

“Essentially, the judge gave [Durand] the exact sentence that Wegmans requested,” Egert said.

Testifying during his trial, Durand said the activists removed the hens because they wanted to help them. He described hens covered in flies, trapped in manure pits and hens with their necks stuck in cages.

But by entering the farm, the activists risked infecting the hens with diseases, Kehoe said yesterday, noting they could have caused “death [of hens] on a mammoth scale” and enormous economic damage to both Wegmans and the community.

If the activists had truly cared about the hens, Kehoe said, they would have contacted the authorities. Instead, they chose to attack Wegmans through their film, he said.

“I would like to be able to order you to recover and destroy all of your illegally obtained and perhaps inaccurate videos, but, unlike you, I will follow the law,” Kehoe said.

Egert said he believes Kehoe was trying to make a point with his sentence.

“It seemed like he took into account a lot of other things surrounding this case [such as the film distribution] rather than the actual circumstances of it,” Egert said.

Kehoe said any sentence he imposed that did not include jail time might be perceived as tacit approval of Durand’s actions.

And that perception would be a mistake, he said.

Durand could be out of jail in four months with good behavior, Egert said. He asked Kehoe to give Durand time to make arrangements for his pets before beginning his sentence, but the judge declined, he said.

Content © 2006 The Finger Lakes Times
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Chicken Coop Film Used Against Director

An Animal Rights Activist Hoped to Shed Light on Conditions at Egg Farm but Got Burned by His Own Tape


May 10, 2006 — Adam Durand is a graphic designer and animal rights activist who is now best known as the unlikely director of the most controversial video around Rochester, N.Y.

Durand and two women planned to sneak into a gigantic egg farm, owned by Wegman's, a Rochester grocery chain, to document what they believed to be the poor conditions inside.

Durand said it was a cold, rainy night when they crawled through a hole in a wire fence. Durand said they knew that what they were doing was illegal.

"At the time, we weren't thinking about the legal consequences. We were just concerned about getting the best footage we could … there's no other way to show people what happens," he said.

That night and two other nights later, Durand taped the conditions while the women described what they saw.

"We had no idea what to expect," Durand said. "We were blown away."

The disturbing images Durand shot include a chicken with its head caught between bars and another trapped in a pile of manure.

Durand said their intention was only to document, not to destroy property. They ended up finding what they thought were sickly hens trapped in manure pits below the egg-laying house.

"We just couldn't leave them behind, so yes, we brought hens out of the facility," Durand said.

Durand made the tape into a film, convinced that when the world saw what he shot, there would be action and that the supermarket chain would be punished for the way it raised its hens. He was thrilled when his work, called "Wegman's Cruelty," was shown at a local theater.

Does Punishment Fit the Crime?

The footage did indeed lead to a prosecution — not of Wegman's but of Durand.

Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy said that while the images Durand shot may be distasteful, a few injured hens out of close to a million at the farm did not prove negligence or provide any reason to charge Wegman's with a crime.

"The tape pretty much told us most of what we needed to know," Healy said.

When Durand and his cohorts publicly identified themselves in the film as the ones who snuck into the egg farm, Healy said Wegman's wanted them to pay.

Wegman's, which questions if all the footage was actually shot on its farm, would not talk to "Primetime" on camera. But in a statement on its Web site, the company said its farm is considered "one of the best in the country" and that when Durand broke in, he "put our hens at risk" by possibly tracking in disease.

Durand figured he might face trespassing charges — a misdemeanor crime. But when the grand jury heard the case, it came back with much more serious charges: felony burglary for breaking in and taking chickens out of the egg farm. Durand would face up to seven years behind bars if convicted of those charges.

Eric Schneider, Durand's original lawyer, said the punishment was way out of proportion to the crime.

"It seems thus far that the prosecution in this case is deferential to this corporation," Schneider said.

And the lawyer said he was confident the judge would let the jury see Durand's tape, which Schneider thought would ultimately work in his client's favor.

Durand said that he, too, hoped that a jury would see things his way. "That they say, you know, it's obvious that they're on the wrong side of the law here, but that they did it for the right reasons, and we can't hold them accountable for all of this stuff," Durand said.

And that's about what happened — just last week, with a new team of lawyers representing him in court, a jury saw some of Durand's footage and acquitted him on all but the criminal trespassing charges.

Durand still wants to change the way those hens are raised, but thanks to his video, he won't be locked in a cage of his own for his efforts.
Wegmans Egg Petition: first delivery!

Greetings from UR-VEG at the University of Rochester. Sometime during the past eight months you signed our petition asking Danny Wegman to phase out the cruel "battery" cages used on his 700,000-hen egg farm in Wolcott, New York.

We'd like to thank you for adding your voice. Over 2,100 other customers have let Wegmans know that unnecessary animal cruelty is simply unacceptable, and the number keeps rising.

We're also happy to announce that we recently delivered the first batch of petitions! Hoping to get Danny's attention, we printed out your signatures and placed each one inside a colorful plastic egg. These 2,100 eggs filled over three shopping carts, which we brought to Wegmans corporate headquarters in Rochester, New York.

As you might imagine, all those eggs made for quite a sight! The media was there to cover the event, and you can see excerpts on our website, here:


You may have received Wegmans' email response to the petition. Instead of following the lead of other grocery chains that have already phased out battery-cage eggs,
Wegmans continues to make excuses. We think their claims are misleading at best, or simply false. If you're interested, we address their excuses here:


Finally, we encourage you to contact Wegmans directly: let Danny Wegman know that this issue won't go away until he cleans up his act! You can send feedback to the company in a variety of ways:

* Post:
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
1500 Brooks Avenue
PO Box 30844
Rochester, NY 14603-0844

* Phone: 1-800-WEGMANS, ext. 4760

* Web: http://www.wegmans.com/guest/

* Email:
General comments: <comments@wegmans.com>
Jo Natale, Consumer Affairs <jo.natale@wegmans.com>
Jeanne Colleluori, Consumer Affairs <jeanne.colleluori@wegmans.com>
Danny Wegman, CEO <danny.wegman@wegmans.com>

Thank you for caring!
Chicken Scratch

Syracuse New Times, 5/10/06

Eighteen months after first sneaking onto Wegmans Egg Farm in Wolcott, capturing video footage of the farm and rescuing several hens, animal rights activist Adam Durand has been convicted of trespassing but acquitted of eight other counts of petit larceny and burglary. Wegmans' response to the verdict, in a statement forwarded to The New Times, is that "they are very glad this chapter in a nearly two-year saga has ended." Still, Durand said the campaign to get Wegmans to change practices on their egg farm is far from over.

The statement, forwarded by Wegmans representative Jo Natale, also said, "We're pleased with the conviction on the trespassing charges, and although we're disappointed in the other decisions, we do respect the finding of the jury."

Durand said the most surprising of the findings is the jury's acquittal on the petit larceny charge. "In order to acquit on those {three charges of petit larceny}, the jury had to determine that {the chickens} were completely worthless to the company. Basically that they were completely neglected by Wegmans. If you follow the letter of the law, this looks like pretty straightforward petit larceny."

According to Durand, during his lawyer Len Egert's closing arguments, Egert showed still images from Durand's video Wegmans Cruelty and asked, "Does this look like valuable property to you?" During the trial, Wegmans Egg Farm manager Jason Wadsworth estimated the value of a hen to the company to be $2.80.

Durand and the other activists involved in the incursions into Wegmans Egg Farm are the main members of a Rochester animal rights group Compassionate Consumers, which produced the film and raised money to pay legal fees for the group as well as continued to organize against Wegmans while the trial was pending. The group asserts that Wegmans Egg Farm practices, while not legally considered animal abuse, are inhumane. They are asking Wegmans to switch to "cage-free" eggs that are farmed in more hospitable conditions than the minimum 67 cubic inches allotted to each hen in the battery cage system Wegmans employs.

Durand said his lawyers Egert and Amy Trakinski, of New York City, tried to mount a "justification defense," that Durand's actions of taking hens out of the facility for medical treatment were justified by the crippled and dying state they were in. But the judge refused to allow it. Instead they successfully argued that the charges of theft were moot because the property--in this case, chickens--was of such little value to Wegmans.

While the campaign against Wegmans Egg Farm has been on hold awaiting the verdict in Durand's case, Syracuse-based Community Animal Project organizer Shawn DeLeo said CAP, Compassionate Consumers and organizations in other cities where Wegmans has stores will be stepping up pressure to force the company to abandon the battery cage system. "Because they own their own egg farm they have the power to change," DeLeo said. "We're asking them to adopt certified humane standards and because they're normally such a progressive company, there's no excuse not to."

DeLeo, along with Compassionate Consumers and local animal rights groups, has organized screenings of Wegmans Cruelty in Syracuse and other cities, weekly demonstrations at Central New York stores and an East Coast tour of demonstrations at Wegmans locations. Durand said plans for how his group will continue to pressure Wegmans are up in the air. "The question we're asking right now is 'How can you top a trial?' I'm not interested in another trial but we're making plans. We're trying to build our base of activists on this issue in other cities where there are Wegmans stores," he said.

Durand was pleased with the media coverage of his trial, with The New York Times sending a reporter and many papers picking up an Associated Press article about his case last week. He was somewhat surprised that Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle didn't send their own reporter, however, and noted that the Gannett publication refused to run an ad purchased by Animal Rights International showing a decomposed chicken and text that read, "Did Your Wegmans Egg Share a Cage With a Corpse?" The Post-Standard didn't pick up the AP item or run their own story about the trial, either.

Durand also noted that ABC News has prepared a piece about him for the "Caught on Tape" portion of their Prime Time broadcast that is tentatively scheduled to run Thursday, May 11, 10 p.m., on WSYR-Channel 9, although it was bumped once before, by an interview with Tom Cruise. Despite being pre-empted by celebrity news, Durand is hopeful the attention will force Wegmans to reconsider their practices.

"People who see the movie really feel like they've been in the dark and they want to do something about it," he said. "People seem to be caring more about the welfare of chickens these days."

--Justin Park
TV show features Wegmans intruder

Misty Edgecomb
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Staff Writer

(May 11, 2006) — When Adam Durand sneaked into a Wegmans egg farm in Wolcott, Wayne County, to film the hens' living conditions, he didn't expect it to get him on national television.

But that's what will happen tonight. The 26-year-old Rochester graphics designer is one of three people from around the country who will be featured on the ABC-TV show Primetime.

The news magazine segment will look at the ubiquity of cameras today and how the footage isn't always used as the filmmaker intends, said Primetime publicist Paige Capossela.

The Rochester activist was chosen because his footage from a series of 2004 break-ins at the chicken farm was used by prosecutors in the recent case charging him with felony burglary and other crimes.

Durand and two other activists — all members of the group Compassionate Consumers — entered the farm illegally, shot video that they say depicts cruel living conditions, and removed 11 injured hens.

Last week, a jury acquitted Durand of all felony charges, and convicted him of three misdemeanor counts of criminal trespassing.

The show's co-anchor Chris Cuomo and a producer traveled to Rochester in late March to interview Durand.

The activist also provided Primetime with his raw footage of the farm and with excerpts from his film, titled Wegmans Cruelty.

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. officials were asked to respond to the Primetime piece, either in writing or on camera, but declined, referring the network to animal care inspectors who have visited the farm.

"We were not convinced that our story would be told accurately and completely," spokeswoman Jo Natale said in a written statement.

On Wednesday, Durand called the show a great opportunity to get his message out to a larger audience, saying that appearing on the show exceeded his hopes when he set out to make the documentary.

Primetime averages 7.5 million viewers each week, Capossela said.


To learn more
For Compassionate Consumers' view on the issue, visit www.wegmanscruelty.com.

For the Wegmans perspective, visit www.wegmans.com.

If you watch
The Primetime episode featuring Adam Durand will air from 10 to 11 p.m. today on ABC-TV stations, including local affiliate WHAM-TV (Channel 13).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rochester City News

Of food and felonies

Wegmans vs. the activist: who was really on trial?

Activist and filmmaker Adam Durand: "We knew we'd be not only questioning a powerful company, but also the eating habits of lots of people."

Wegmans egg farm production manager Jason Wadsworth: "It felt like I was the one on trial."

Adam Durand's palms were sweating.

A few minutes before 2 p.m. last Thursday, a Wayne County court clerk addressed the 26-year-old packaging designer from Rochester as "the defendant" and asked him to rise.

"When I was asked to stand to hear the verdict, it was an incredible moment," he recalls. "My heart was racing."

Durand was facing nine different counts, three each of criminal trespassing, petit larceny, and felony burglary. Each burglary charged carried the possibility of a jail sentence of up to seven years.

The charges stemmed from his role in sneaking onto Wegmans egg farm in Wolcott to make a film and taking hens out with him on each of the three trips --- 11 hens in all. (Durand and his fellow activists said they took only hens that were sick or dying --- he and his supporters used the word "rescue"; the district attorney and Wegmans prefer "stole.")

A year later, in 2005, the fruit of his efforts --- a 27-minute documentary titled "Wegmans Cruelty" --- was released. (It was screened at the Little Theatre as part of its Emerging Filmmakers Series.) But Durand's story and the story of the grocery company had been working their way toward this conclusion for a long time.

In 1967, Wegmans opened the egg farm just outside the little village of Wolcott, nearly 50 miles east of Rochester. Since then, it's been run by the same family for three generations. But times and attitudes toward food production have changed. In a prescient address to a 2001 conference of fellow poultry producers in California, one of the farm's employees, John Gingerich, recognized the looming concerns.

"I believe our industry is at a crossroads on the animal-welfare issue," he said.

Gingerich went on to mostly dismiss the beliefs of animal-rights activists, but he made this trenchant observation that Wegmans executives may wish they'd paid closer attention to now:

"I have found in the many tours that I have given to persons without poultry backgrounds that the single most common comment involving negative perceptions that they have is the small amount of space that we give the chickens. The reality is that we also deal in perceptions, and those perceptions affect our futures."

We don't know what Wegmans officials made of those remarks at the time, or if they prompted any internal discussions about animal rights issues at the company. As other parts of Gingerich's address suggest, Wegmans was providing what it believed to be adequate care for its hens. (Perhaps that early awareness is one of the reasons Wegmans wasn't on trial, as other farms are; before charging Durand, the district attorney and state police conducted a two-week cruelty investigation of the farm and ultimately declined to press charges.)

Still, a few years later, that address, reprinted in Cornell Cooperative Extension's newsletter Cornell Poultry Pointers, would become inspiration for Adam Durand's crusade.

Durand's journey toward becoming a guerrilla filmmaker and running afoul of the law in the process began nearly a year after Gingerich's remarks were published. For Christmas of 2002 Durand cooked dinner for two vegan friends. He was not a vegan himself, but he enjoyed the experience, and his friends urged him to join them in abstaining not only from meat but all animal-based foods. Durand says he tried the diet on a whim, as more of a challenge to himself than a political or social decision.

But his connections with other vegans and vegetarians inevitably exposed him to the very different reasons why others had made a similar choice.

In the summer of 2003 he first saw a video of an egg farm that employed battery cages: a type of cage where several laying hens essentially live out their lives in tight quarters, along with several other birds. Ninety-five percent of the nation's egg supply comes from hens living in such cages.

"I wasn't really interested in farm-animal issues at that point," he says, but "I knew this had to be stopped."

At first Wegmans, didn't seem an obvious choice for such a campaign. Durand, who'd grown up in Webster, had, like many Rochesterians, a certain regard for the hometown grocery chain.

"I had always looked up to Wegmans since childhood, and I'd always thought of them as a stellar company," he says.

But a few factors made the chain the logical target. First, they own their own egg farm, a rarity in the industry. Wegmans spokesperson Jeanne Colleluori says the company made the unusual decision because it "allowed us to be consistent with what we offered our customers."

And Wegmans is rare in the industry in another way: It's a full-service grocery store that also competes to fill the niche occupied by natural-food chains like Whole Foods and Wild Oats elsewhere. A small sign on the entrance of the chain's store in Pittsford boasts the number of organic products offered on a given day. Those two factors, taken together with Wegmans' reputation as a progressive and responsive company, made the grocery chain a logical bridge between niche markets (which have switched to selling only cage-free eggs) and the rest of the grocery industry.

So Durand and his organization, Compassionate Consumers, wrote to Wegmans asking for a tour of the egg-laying facility. Their request was rejected. Talking to Wegmans' representatives almost won them over --- "The company had almost convinced us, but not quite, that they were better than the rest," Durand says --- but then the rejection letter referenced Wegmans' participation in the United Egg producers Animal Care certified program.

Compassionate Consumers knew that that program was under assault from the Better Business Bureau, which alleged that it was misleading advertising. When Wegmans invoked the program, it backfired on the company. Looking back, Durand says that was the turning point that convinced him he needed to get video footage of the inside of the farm.

"We toyed around with maybe getting a job there" or repeating the request, says Durand, but eventually the group decided to take matters into their own hands and visit the farm at night.

Everyone in the group with whom City Newspaper spoke says they decided early on that they wouldn't damage property to gain access to farm.

"We didn't want to give them a reason to call us terrorists or something," says Megan Cosgrove, a Compassionate Consumers member who accompanied Durand on the final trip and is serving probation for her role, as part of a plea bargain.

"We're even avoiding the term 'activists,' because we really just wanted to be filmmakers," Durand adds.

They also thought that breaking in would blunt the impact of their message when they took it to the public.

"We thought the better we did it, the better it'd be received," Cosgrove says.

"We knew we'd be not only questioning a powerful company, but also the eating habits of lots of people," says Durand.

For all that, Durand doesn't seem to have ever felt very nervous about going into the farm.

"We had put so much effort into it, we knew there was no turning back," he says. "I'm sure I thought to myself 'I'm not the kind of person who does this thing,'" he admits, but then if he didn't, who would, he thought.

The way Americans think about food has been in a state of more or less constant flux for at least the past several decades. There was a time when a majority of the people in the US lived on a farm. Those days are long gone, and few people can tell you exactly where their food comes from or how it's made. Since the middle of the past century, food and food production has become increasingly mechanized and globalized, but also increasingly tinged with political and social meaning.

Our ancestors of a century ago would have been equally mystified by Kraft Singles and by organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee.

When Durand and his fellow activists went into the egg farm on May 1, May 15, and August 1, the footage they captured and the film they subsequently created is one small contribution to the burgeoning national conversation about food.

The film is not for the faint of heart. Jason Wadsworth, the production manager at Wegmans egg farm, appeared uncomfortable with the images he was shown while on the witness stand during Durand's trial. And when state police investigator Frank D'Aurizio --- who, along with Wayne County DA Rick Healy, brought the charges against Durand and two others --- was confronted on the stand by a video still, he admitted he considered what was depicted to be neglect.

The video shows the corpses of hens (sometimes decaying), hens with injuries or with their heads stuck in the cage wires. The most stomach-turning shots come from below the cages in the manure pits, where the activists videotaped one hen nearly submerged in manure and another crawling with flies. (Wegmans says there's no way to confirm or deny whether most of the footage was shot at its facility.)

Partially lost in the shuffle was who was actually on trial.

"Wegmans is not on trial here," the DA told prospective jurors during jury selection. He repeated that line again at the beginning of his closing arguments in the trial. You might not have known it, though, from the courtroom proceedings, he said. (In a way, that's a backhanded compliment to his opponents, Len Egert and Amy Trakinski, Durand's lawyers.)

He repeated the line a third time, at the end of his summations: "This is not about Wegmans, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "This is about Wegmans' right to equal protection under law."

After the trial, City Newspaper asked Healy whether he felt he'd been able to effectively communicate that point to the jury. Laughing, he responded: "That's a good question." Instead of answering it directly he offered this: "That's why this case was so unusual. This obviously wasn't a larceny in the normal sense."

Healy was acknowledging what Durand's defense team made effective use of: the disparity of the hens' condition and their supposed value to Wegmans.

In his closing argument, Egert played up that disconnect by showing the jury video clips, stills, and a few photos: "When you look at this, you have to ask yourself: is that property that has any value? Is that property that Wegmans cares about? The truth is, they don't care."

"Should they have walked away from this?" he asked a few moments later, this time while showing a video of a hen covered with flies.

Wegmans, recognizing that the trial could become about them, strove mightily to keep that from happening. But the company was in a difficult position. In order to convict Durand, they had to admit that at least some of the video footage came from their facility.

A plea bargain (such as those offered to Cosgrove and a third activist, Melanie Ippolito) might have spared the company the painful spotlight of the trial. But Healy (who says he doesn't plea bargain burglaries without the consent of the victim) says Wegmans wasn't interested in letting Durand bargain.

As part of their public relations outreach, Wegmans offered media covering the trial, including City Newspaper, a tour of the Wolcott facility.

"We wanted to get the record straight," said Jeanne Colleluori. "We have nothing to hide. We felt the visuals shown in the courtroom were very slanted in a negative way."

Conditions in the facility appeared to be different from those in the "Wegmans Cruelty" film, but not drastically. The most obvious difference was that it was much cleaner. (Colleluori says the decision to offer the tour was made earlier that day, so no special preparations were made.) Manure piles were a foot or two high, rather than the four to six-feet-high mounds activists say they observed during their visit.

Media weren't allowed down the 400-foot-long corridors lined by cages, for fear of agitating the hens, so it's impossible to compare the situation with that in much of the activists' video.

But in a sense, all that's superficial. What was the same in both the video and the media visit were the cages themselves. Neither side disputes that hens are kept in tight quarters. (At the Wegmans farm that means four or seven birds per cage, depending on layout, according to the company.) The cages are stacked four high and run the full length of the building, about 400 feet (that's the length of a football field, plus 100 feet).

Jason Wadsworth, the farm's manager, says each bird is allotted 75 square inches. Paul Shapiro, who advocates on this issue full time for the Humane Society of the United States, points out that a standard letter-size sheet of paper, at 8.5 by 11 inches, is 93.5 square inches.

A Q-and-A on Wegmans' website addresses this question, saying people aren't "instinctively" a good judge of how much space the birds need: "The UEP [United Egg Producers, an industry association] scientific committee determined this was the right size to provide adequate space to allow hens to eat, drink, and sleep when they wish."

At the time Durand broke into the facility in 2004, there were 750,000 hens living in these conditions. Today there are about 650,000 according to Wadsworth. To get a sense of how big that number is, there were about 700,000 people living in Monroe County in 2004 (down from 735,000 in 2000) according to US Census Bureau estimates.

The debate ultimately boils down to the use of the battery cages, and there's a wide gulf between the opposing sides. Producers like Wegmans judge themselves on how well they adhere to industry standards in using the battery-cage system. In Wegmans' case, that's pretty well. The farm already complies with the UEP's 2012 standards.

But activists like Durand and Shapiro want to see the cages banned completely. Some European nations --- Switzerland, Austria, and Germany are examples, according to Shapiro --- have phased out the cages entirely, while the entire European Union is going to a softer form of battery cages that are "furnished" with perches, nesting boxes, and other fowl amenities. But "here in the US," says Amy Trakinski, one of Durand's attorneys, "there really has been a trend for states to amend their animal-cruelty statutes" to make it easier for large-scale farms to continue using existing battery cages.

In other cases, including one slated to be tried in Pennsylvania this summer, the tables have been turned and the egg suppliers are going on trial for animal cruelty. But getting people to pay attention is difficult, says Trakinski.

"I think people don't want to look at it," she says. "Even some well-intentioned people who would take seriously a case involving a companion animal will look away when it involves a farm animal."

When they're compelled to look, though, the results might be an unwelcome surprise to the egg producers.

After deliberating for just over an hour (and that includes time to eat their free lunch), the jury found Adam Durand not guilty of all three counts of felony burglary, as well as all three counts of petit larceny. They convicted him of criminal trespassing. Though he could still spend up to 9 months in jail if sentenced consecutively, that was clearly a victory for Durand.

"When this case was given to a jury, they found that Adam was guilty of less than Mel and I pled to," says Megan Cosgrove. (She and Ippolito pled guilty to both the trespassing and petit larceny counts.)

"They didn't find it a crime to rescue sick and dying animals." That's how Len Egert interpreted the verdict. Yet despite statements like that and the implications they portend, he and Trakinski say they weren't seeking a test case, and Durand wasn't looking to become a martyr for the animal-rights cause.

"We weren't pushing for a trial," he says. "We weren't trying to put Wegmans on trial."

Wegmans released a statement on the verdict that sidestepped that question altogether, saying, in part: "We are very glad this chapter in a nearly two-year saga has ended. We're pleased with the conviction on the trespassing charges, and although we're disappointed in the other decisions, we do respect the finding of the jury."

But the most telling reaction came from the farm manager Wadsworth, as he wound up his tour for the media.

"Actually it felt like I was the one on trial," he said.

To learn more

You can get information related to this story at the following links.

Wegmans statement (plus an FAQ)

"Wegmans Cruelty" video

The Humane Society of the United States Farm Campaigns

"Changing concepts for housing and equipment" John Gingerich

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

ABC "Primetime" this week will feature the investigation of Wegmans Egg Farm by Compassionate Consumers. The show will air Thursday at 10:00 pm Eastern, 9:00 PM Central.

After the show airs please contact "Primetime" and thank them for their coverage of this issue.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hen Activist Says the War on Cages Will Go On

Published: May 7, 2006

ROCHESTER, May 5 — An animal-rights activist acquitted of burglary and other charges after admittedly sneaking onto a large commercial egg farm to film conditions there said his group would continue to pressure the company to stop caging hens.

"We'll embolden our efforts," said the activist, Adam C. Durand, of Rochester, who has lead a two-year protest against the egg-farming practices of the popular regional supermarket chain Wegmans.

Some 750,000 hens at the Wegmans farm in Wolcott, N.Y., are kept in wire cages, as are the vast majority of the nation's hens used for commercial egg production. The practice has an economic benefit, since farmers can house far more hens by stacking cages. Also, caged flocks tend to have a lower mortality rate, since they are less vulnerable to disease and predators.

But at some commercial farms, hens are sometimes packed so tightly into cages that they cannot lie down or flap their wings. "It's among the most abusive factory-farming practices used today," said Paul Shapiro, a director of the Humane Society of the United States, who leads a campaign to ban the practice.

A Wegmans spokeswoman, Jeanne Colleluori, said the film was not representative of the farm. "The film was slanted in a very negative way," she said.

The Rochester group intended to dissuade consumers from buying eggs from farms that use cages by producing a film to show conditions at the Wegmans farm, one of the largest in the Northeast.

Mr. Durand, 26, admitted that he and several others crept onto the Wegmans property three times in 2004, hoping to capture the scene on video. He took video of some hens stuck in the wires and others wandering in the manure pits.

His film, released last year, caught the attention of national animal-activist groups, who supported his efforts. But it also came to the attention of the Wayne County district attorney, Richard Healy, who charged Mr. Durand with burglary, petty larceny and criminal trespass.

Last week, as Mr. Durand was about to go on trial, the group Animal Rights International said it tried to place a $13,000 full-page advertisement in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. It included a photo of a decomposed hen still in its cage with several live hens, with the headline, "Did Your Wegmans Egg Share a Cage With a Corpse?"

The paper's publisher, Michael G. Kane, said it asked the group to remove the picture and to delay publication, considering that the Wegmans family patriarch, Robert Wegman, had recently died. "It was a disgusting photo," Mr. Kane said.

The group declined, and the ad never ran.

At Mr. Durand's three-day trial, the farm production manager, Andrew Wadsworth, testified that that about eight of the farm's 80 employees are in charge of caring for the flock and regularly check the birds.

Mr. Durand testified in his defense and showed video images, for example, of a hen submerged up to its neck in manure. After 90 minutes of deliberations, the jury convicted Mr. Durand only of misdemeanor trespass charges.

Later, he said he planned to eventually distribute a second film, one that includes information about his legal battles. "The whole trial has strengthened our resolve," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Colleluori, the Wegmans spokeswoman, said the company would rely on science, poultry experts and consumer demand, rather than pressure from activists, to decide how it runs its farms.

"We'll continue to do what's best for our farm, our employees and our hens," she said.

What You Can Do To Help the Wegmans Cruelty Campaign

In statements to the media Thursday Wegmans said it is glad this matter is over and behind it. Wegmans has to realize that this issue will not be left alone until the company begins phasing out battery cages at its egg farm.

To help make this happen, contact Wegmans at 1-800-WEGMANS or write to them at:

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
1500 Brooks Avenue
PO Box 30844
Rochester, NY 14603-0844

You can also use their online contact form and email them at comments@wegmans.com, danny@wegmans.com, & colleen@wegmans.com

Please also sign the UR VEG Wegmans Cruelty petition.

Also, please donate to Compassionate Consumers. Any funds donated to us will go directly to pay for legal fees and campaign materials. (We do not have any paid employees.) You can donate online through PayPal (below, no account required) or send a check or money order to our mailing address. Any DVDs purchased will help CC to recoup the cost of DVD production and other campaign materials.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A statement by Bruce Friedrich, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, on yesterday's historic verdict:

Every consumer owes a debt of gratitude to Adam Durand and other activists who are doing the government's work for them by exposing the cruelties of modern factory farms. They are also doing the work of Gandhi and King, educating the nation to injustice, oppression and, in this case, the cruelties of modern farms, cruelties that all kind people oppose. It was a good jury for recognizing that saving injured animals is not a crime. And anyone who watches the video at WegmansCruelty.com will see that they were right because sick, dying, and diseased animals were filmed in cages with other animals, and with no care. They'll see animals caught in the wire cages and drowning in their own excrement. Intervening to help an animal or human in need should be applauded and not prosecuted. Anyone who sees how hens suffer in sheds like Wegman's can't help but be revolted. Adam's actions have allowed thousands of consumers to learn about the dark side of the egg industry, and for that, he deserves the gratitude of all caring people.