a Voice for the Voiceless
by Shawn DeLeo
Friends Don't Chain Friends
Community Animal Project (CAP) has garnered much media attention for our "Friends Don't Chain Friends"
|Wegmans Cruelty will be screened again in Syracuse at New York States 2nd Annual Vegetarian Festival on August 27 at the Inner Harbor. You can also contact CAP for a DVD.|
Food You Feel Good About?
Wegmans is widely believed to be a very positive company. They seem to cater to health conscious consumers, provide great customer service and are always highly ranked as one of the top companies to work for in the US. Unfortunately, when it comes to the treatment of their egg laying hens, Wegmans receives very poor marks.
A group of activists in the Rochester area contacted Wegmans in 2004 after reading information on the Wegmans website claiming their egg farm to be one of the best in the country. The website specifically described problems common at other farms and denied that they were happening at the Wegmans' egg farm. After being denied tours of the farm so the claims could be proven, activists entered the farm at night with a video camera to document the conditions. Not only did they find Wegmans to be lying on their website, but they found the conditions of the farm to be completely horrendous - hens drowning in manure pits, starving to death in cages because their heads were stuck in the cage wiring, corpses all over the bottoms of cages, and hens on the lower levels covered with feces from the higher ones. The hens were cramped in so tightly that they could barely turn around or even spread a wing. They were being denied everything that was natural to them. The activists were able to rescue a few of the hens. They then formed an organization called Compassionate Consumers and turned their footage into a film, Wegmans Cruelty.
Soon after its release in July of 2005, Wegmans pressed charges (including burglary, larceny, trespassing, and theft) against three activists involved in the film, who used their faces and real names during the open investigation/rescue. Basically, a corporation caught lying had activists arrested for exposing the truth. Two of the activists accepted plea-bargains, while the third, Adam Durand, went to trial and was convicted of a misdemeanor. Despite being his first offense, he was sentenced to six months in jail. After serving more than two months, Adam was granted a stay of sentence pending appeal on June 20 by the presiding Supreme Court Judge.
Initially Wegmans tried to defend itself by using the fact that their eggs were stamped with the Animal Care Certified (ACC) logo. United Egg Producers themselves created ACC, which permits overcrowding, de-beaking, and every other cruel condition depicted in the film. Many organizations, including CAP wrote to them asking that they remove the label as it misleads the public. They refused to listen to us, and it took the Federal Trade Commission stepping in to force all stores to remove the label. It's very sad that such a company appears progressive on the outside, yet refuses to listen to consumer and humane organizations.
CAP has launched a nation-wide campaign asking Wegmans to stop using battery cages and switch their farm to one that complies with Certified Humane guidelines. Certified Humane is endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Society of the United States. It would mean the hens would not be in cages, would have enough space to take dust baths, would have nenesting boxes, and would be checked regularly by veterinarians. They also would not be de-beaked (a process done as chicks with no painkillers to prevent pecking each other to death in the cages). In order to keep the Certified Humane logo their farm would have to pass inspection by an independent humane organization. Please contact Wegmans and let them know you want them to make these changes. The cruel battery cage system has been banned by the European Union, and many US food service markets, universities, and grocery store chains such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joes have pledged to stop using battery cages. Wegmans is in a unique position - they own their own farm and have the power to go even further by going Certified Humane. They would be the first company in New York to have a Certified Humane egg farm. Their slogan is "Everyday You Get Our Best." Until they switch to Certified Humane, neither consumers or their hens are getting even close to their 'best.'
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