Friday, May 05, 2006

Activist Who Entered NY State's Largest Egg Farm – Wegmans - To Videotape Multitudes of Chickens Clumped In Small Wire Cages Acquitted of Felony

For more on the cruelty at Wegmans and the campaign to stop it see


Animal-rights activist who filmed egg farm acquitted of burglary

5/4/2006, 6:03 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — An animal-rights activist who sneaked onto New York state's largest egg farm to videotape multitudes of chickens clumped in small wire cages was acquitted Thursday on felony burglary charges but convicted of criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

Adam Durand, 26, denied that he broke into one of the farm's sheds during three nighttime visits in 2004, saying he climbed in through a hole in a wall. He also maintained he had no intention of removing birds from the farm, which is operated by Rochester-based grocery store chain Wegmans.

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 during the three-day trial in Lyons in rural Wayne County.

A jury 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. A criminal mischief charge was thrown out.

Durand, who freely admitted entering the farm where 700,000 hens produce more than a half-million eggs a day, was convicted on three counts of third-degree criminal trespassing, which carries a maximum 90-day jail term. Sentencing was set for May 16.

"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."

Two friends who accompanied Durand to the farm 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 an animal and 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 not only cuts production costs but limits the animals' exposure to potential 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."

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