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.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When will Wegmans be criminally charged for its egg farm? Other farms get charged, so why not them?

In December 2005, a COK investigator worked undercover at Esbenshade Farms, one of Pennsylvania's largest egg factory farms. While there, he documented appalling conditions for hundreds of thousands of hens confined inside decrepit cages. The documentation led to the filing of 35 counts of criminal animal cruelty against both the owner and the manager of the factory farm.
The trial started in April and continued yesterday. Below are several of today's news reports about this case, including two Associated Press articles and local television news coverage. For more information about the investigation, visit http://www.cok.net/feat/paefi.php. To see more of the media coverage, visit http://tinyurl.com/flr6o. The case is still pending.

Professor: Egg farm had deteriorating cages, neglected birds

By MARTHA RAFFAELE
The Associated Press
08/07/2006
ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. - A secretly shot videotape showed evidence of deteriorating cages and neglected birds at a Lancaster County egg farm, a prosecution expert testified Monday at the animal-cruelty trial of the farm's manager and chief executive.
There were many birds, "both live and dead, that were trapped on parts of the cages" at Esbenshade Farms last year, said Ian Duncan, a poultry science professor who recently retired from the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Duncan took the stand Monday at the start of a trial for the chief executive and the manager of Esbenshade Farms in Mount Joy, one of Pennsylvania's largest egg producers.
His testimony was entirely based on the 19-minute videotape that was shot by an animal-rights activist who worked undercover at the farm last year. Duncan said the tape showed too many birds trapped in dangerous conditions for it to have been fabricated.

A humane society police officer charged the executive, H. Glenn Esbenshade, and the manager, Jay Musser, with summary offenses after she obtained the video. The defendants' lawyer has said the state's animal-cruelty law cannot be enforced against what he described as a "normal agricultural operation."
John Brothers, who made the video, said he saw as many as nine chickens in a single cage, and that broken cage wires impaled both dead and living birds.
Brothers testified that he reported the conditions to Musser. "His response was that the cages were 25 years old," Brothers said.
The tape reportedly shows chickens impaled by cage wires, unable to reach food or water, kept in areas so small they could not spread their wings and penned along with decomposing dead chickens.

1 charge dropped in egg-farm cruelty case
Summary trial begins on 34 other charges against Esbenshade Farms
By By Robyn Meadows And Tim Mekeel
Lancaster New Era

Aug 07, 2006

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - One animal-cruelty charge against a pair of Mount Joy egg-farm operators was thrown out this morning, because the charge lacked the date of the alleged offense.

Magisterial District Court Judge Jayne Duncan agreed to dismiss the charge against the Esbenshade Farms operators as their summary trial began.

Esbenshade Farms chief executive officer H. Glenn Esbenshade and farm manager Jay Musser still face 34 summary counts of animal cruelty.

If convicted, the defendants face a potential penalty of $50 to $750 in fines and up to 90 days in jail on each count.

The charges were brought by the Humane Society’s police officer for Lancaster County, Johnna Seeton.

Duncan’s small courtroom on South Spruce Street in Elizabethtown was filled with about 35 people, including supporters of each side. The trial was continuing at press time.

At issue are the living conditions faced by the tens of thousands of caged layer hens on the Mount Joy farm.

The allegedly cruel circumstances were captured on a videotape shot by an undercover investigator with Compassion Over Killing, an animal-rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

The prosecution opened its case by calling Ian Duncan, chairman of the animal welfare department at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, to describe what he saw in the 19-minute video.

Duncan said “there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind” that the video showed trapped hens, including many that were dead for a long time, signifying that the bird cages “were not examined regularly.”

Charges against the two officials were filed in January, on the basis of the videotape shot the month before.

Animal rights groups said the case marked the first time animal cruelty charges had been lodged against an egg farm in Pennsylvania.

The case is the first in the nation in which cruelty is alleged to be part of the normal living conditions for hens, an animal rights official has said.

The central piece of evidence is the video made from Dec. 3 to 8.

The tape allegedly shows hens impaled on wires from cages, hens tangled in the wires and unable to reach food or water, and hens caged with decomposing carcasses of other birds.

Defense attorneys failed in April to get the footage excluded from the trial.

They maintained that undercover activist John Brothers, who shot the video while briefly working at the egg farm, violated constitutional search-and-seizure provisions.

Brothers, defense attorneys said, shot the video without permission and lied on his job application.

But the prosecution showed that Brothers took the video on his own, not as a government investigator, so the constitutionality issue was moot.

Brothers, a member of animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, showed the video to Humane Society officer Seeton. Seeton then used her county-sanctioned authority to file the charges.


Egg-farm cruelty case ends with lawyers seeking deal
By MARTHA RAFFAELE,
Associated Press
08/07/2006
A hearing into animal cruelty charges at one of the state's largest egg farms ended inconclusively Monday, as lawyers for both sides said they were trying to reach a settlement.
Elizabethtown District Judge Jayne F. Duncan heard about 5 1/2 hours of testimony from two of the four witnesses the prosecution planned to present, and then attorneys for both sides spent more than an hour in private conference with their clients. After the hearing, neither side's lawyers would say why they chose to negotiate a settlement instead of continuing with the trial.
"All attorneys are willing to negotiate," said Chris Patterson, a lawyer for the defense.
Any agreement would have to be approved by Duncan.
Testimony during the trial of Esbenshade Farms' manager and chief executive focused on claims that birds were housed in cruel conditions, with the key evidence being a secretly shot video that prosecutors say shows deteriorating cages and neglected birds at the Mount Joy farm.
A prosecution expert testified that there were many birds, "both live and dead, that were trapped on parts of the cages" at Esbenshade Farms last year.
Ian Duncan, a poultry science professor who recently retired from the University of Guelph in Ontario, described the contents of a 19-minute video that was shot by an animal-rights activist who worked undercover at the farm last year.
Ian Duncan, no relation to the judge, said the video showed too many birds trapped in dangerous conditions for it to have been fabricated.
A humane society police officer charged the executive, H. Glenn Esbenshade, and the manager, Jay Musser, with summary offenses after she obtained the video. The defense said the state's animal-cruelty law cannot be enforced against what it maintains is a "normal agricultural operation."
John Brothers, who made the video, testified he saw as many as nine chickens in a single cage, and that broken cage wires impaled both dead and living birds. Attorneys for the prosecution played the video for the judge and the defense, but the television was turned so that members of the public were unable to see the screen.
Brothers testified that he reported the conditions to Musser. "His response was that the cages were 25 years old," Brothers said.
The video reportedly shows chickens impaled by cage wires, unable to reach food or water, kept in areas so small they could not spread their wings and penned along with decomposing dead chickens.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Michael T. Winters asked Brothers on several occasions if caring for chickens that were injured or stuck on broken parts of the cages was among his responsibilities at the egg farm.
"Did you believe that part of your duties appears to be attending to birds that appeared to be stuck?" Winters asked.
"That was never conveyed to me ... that I was in charge of the health of the birds," Brothers responded.
Asked to comment after the hearing on the testimony presented by the prosecution, Esbenshade read a written statement.
"We always have been and will continue to be dedicated to food quality, safety, animal welfare and environmental standards based on industry science standards," he said.

Animal Cruelty Trial

WHP CBS-21 in Harrisburg
August 7, 2006
(see video)


Chicken Farm Owner, Manager Face Cruelty Charges
WGAL - Channel 8 in Harrisburg
August 7, 2006
(see video)

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