Animal-rights activist who filmed egg farm acquitted of burglary
5/4/2006, 3:23 p.m. ET
The Associated Press (click to see where the story has been re-published)
By BEN DOBBIN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) ? An animal-rights activist who sneaked into an egg factory to videotape multitudes of egg-laying chickens clumped together in small wire cages was acquitted Thursday on felony burglary charges but convicted of criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.
Adam Durand, 26, denied on the stand that he broke into the egg farm during three nighttime visits in 2004 ? he said he climbed in through a hole in a building wall ? and maintained he had no intention of removing any birds.
Fellow activists took away 11 hens "because in every case they were sick or dying and there was just this feeling that they needed veterinary care," Duran testified Wednesday.
A jury in Wayne County found Durand not guilty of third-degree burglary, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison, as well as three counts of petit larceny. Durand freely admitted entering the building where 700,000 hens produce more than a half-million eggs a day and was convicted on three counts of criminal trespassing.
"I think six months would be the maximum sentence in jail, but we don't expect any jail time," defense lawyer Len Egert said. "It's just usually not given for a low-level offense like this."
Sentencing was set for May 16.
Two friends who accompanied Durand to the farm operated by Rochester-based grocery store chain Wegmans in Wolcott, 50 miles east of Rochester, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of trespassing and petit larceny, both misdemeanors.
The trio were arrested last summer when Durand, a graphic designer and director of a consumer-advocacy group called Compassionate Consumers, produced a 27-minute documentary entitled "Wegmans Cruelty" that was screened at a Rochester movie house.
The film contains footage of hen corpses lying in cages with other live hens, a few that had fallen into deep manure pits running the length of the building or others with their heads apparently caught in the wire.
About 95 percent of the nation's eggs are produced at caged-hen egg farms, and Durand's group wants to alert the public to a practice it considers cruel and neglectful.
The poultry industry says the system cuts production costs and limits the animals' exposure to diseases.
The shed that Durand entered contains about 80,000 hens and is visited twice a day by an employee who checks on the chickens' welfare, said the farm's production manager, Andrew Jason Wadsworth.
In a statement, Wegmans said, "We are pleased with the convictions on the trespassing charges and although we are disappointed with the other decisions, we do respect the finding of the jury. Our primary concern throughout all of this has been the safety and the security of our egg farm and its employees and with protecting our brids from diseases that intruders might introduce."
Egert, in contrast, expressed gratitude that the jury "recognized that rescuing sick and dying hens from Wegmans' factory farms is not a crime."
"People are at least looking now at the way hens and other animal products are being produced and are questioning the treatment of animals and where these products come from," he said. "Mostly they come from industrial-factory farms and those places do not want people to see what's happening inside to the animals."