Activists Protest Inhumane Conditions at Whole Foods/Amazon Farm Supplier
Activists from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) marched and protested at Petaluma Farms in Sonoma County, California for the second time in recent months after receiving “horrifying footage of birds rotting to death inside.” Petaluma Farms markets itself as a cage-free farm and supplies both Amazon and Whole Foods under various brand names including Uncle Eddie’s Wild Hen Farm, Judy’s Family Farm, and Rock Island.
Press Democrat reported the owner of Petaluma Farms, Jonathan Mahrt, denied all accusations of animal cruelty and called the protests an attempt to intimidate a small family farm.
Organic Farms, Cage-Free Eggs and False Advertising
In 2012, Petaluma Farms was the target of a lawsuit by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for marketing “designed to dupe customers” and portraying “chicks and hens running free in an environment reminiscent that is reminiscent of days gone by.” Instead, the lawsuit alleged the chickens “live their entire lives inside modern, barren industrial sheds with no grassy fields and no outdoor access.”
At the time Mahrt called the ALDF lawsuit an attempt at “bullying” and countered by claiming that raising the chickens outdoors provided them no benefit.
“I have been a cage-free egg producer for 30 years,” Mahrt said, “In fact, the oldest one in the state and I have been certified organic for over 16 years.
“When I started doing this I was a hero … I am the same person, my packaging has been the same for 16 years …
“What is the benefit to the chicken of keeping it outside all the time?” he asked.
The two sides reached a settlement in 2014 under terms that required Petaluma Farms to modify their packaging, obtain Certified Humane certification, and pay sums of $14,666 each to the Sonoma Humane Society for hen rescue efforts and the Public Justice Foundation and Consumer Action to provide assistance to victims of consumer fraud.
What Does Cage-Free and Pasture-Raised Mean?
In recent years the demand for cage-free, organic, and pasture-raised eggs and chickens has risen as consumers have become more concerned about the safety of their food and the treatment of animals. However, while the market has responded by offering more poultry and meat products raised via more sustainable and less cruel practices, the legitimacy of the new marketing claims remains largely unregulated and highly questionable.
In a May 2018 interview with Democracy Now, the journalist Glenn Greenwald discussed the prevalence of discrepancies between marketing terms like “free-range” and “pasture-raised” and the reality of the farming conditions the animals are raised on.
“Just last month, we reported on a turkey farm in Utah that the same activists with Direct Action Everywhere were able to film, and the abuse of these turkeys and the disease and the injuries in which they were suffering was absolutely horrific and completely at odds with the bucolic organic branding that this company, which is now a supplier of Whole Foods, advertises to people and convinces people to buy their products on the basis of,” said Greenwald.
While DxE promotes a vegan lifestyle, Big Agra’s hold on our government, its policies and the questionable safety of the food its producing is an issue vegans and meat-eaters can all get on board with.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) claims that “factory farms” dominate modern animal farming and animals are raised in inhumane and unsafe practices which can also have an impact on human health. According to the AWI regular practices at factory farms include:
- Four or more egg-laying hens are packed into a battery cage, a wire enclosure so small that none can spread her wings. Being held in such close confines, the hens peck at each other’s feathers and bodies.
- Pregnant sows spend each of their pregnancies confined to a gestation crate—a metal enclosure that is scarcely wider and longer than the sow herself. Unable to even turn around, sows develop abnormal behaviors, and suffer leg problems and skin lesions.
- Growing pigs are confined to slatted, bare, concrete floors. Stressed by crowding and boredom, they frequently resort to biting and inflicting wounds upon their penmates.
- In factory dairies, cows spend their entire lives confined to concrete. To boost production, some cows are injected with the growth hormone rBGH, leading to lameness and mastitis, a painful infection of the udder.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year 2 million people in the United States contract antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die from such infections. Antibiotics injected into animals in our food supply lead to the increased prevalence of antibiotic resistance in humans.
The close quarters factory farms typically raise animals in create fertile ground for rampant disease and infections. AWI attributes factory farms to “increased transfer of infectious agents from animals to humans, antibiotic resistance, food-borne illness, and the generation of novel viruses like H1N1 (swine flu) in pigs.”
Take Action: DxE has a petition to “ask the Petaluma Police to investigate criminal animal cruelty at a massive factory farm where hens are starving to death” which you can sign here.