It’s been two-and-a-half years since our first investigation into Gemperle Enterprises. Then, an activist snuck into the company’s Central Valley egg farms overnight and shot video of the battery cages and the toll they take on the hens. That report got a lot of attention (it led to changes at Gemperle customers Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods), but this week’s report is getting more – probably for several reasons. First, this time, an activist actually got a job at Gemperle and videotaped workers treating hens roughly. Today, the California Egg and Poultry Association put out a news releases saying, “Let us state strongly that we condemn many of the graphic images and activities depicted in this film. Such images and actions are inconsistent, out of practice, and in violation of our high standards for animal welfare.” You can read the complete news release here.
The second reason – the video shot by the undercover activist is part of a campaign by Mercy For Animals and the Humane Society of the United States before the November election. Californians will be voting on the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act which would ban battery cages, along with gestation crates for pigs and veal crates. HSUS brings funding and strategic planning to the efforts of the relatively small non-profit group, Mercy For Animals.
Speaking of funding, Nu-Cal Foods – the largest egg distributor in the Western United States, partly owned by Gemperle – is one of the biggest contributors to the campaign against the ballot initiative. They’ve spent more than $120,000, second only to United Egg Producers, the national trade group.
I also wanted to point out a new study just published by a prestigious group of researchers, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. The panel recommended a phase-out of battery cages, and concluded factory farms pose unacceptable risks to the public health, environment and animal welfare.