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.

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.

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