Whole Foods Market came under fire yesterday by animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, which held in-store protests over the alleged mistreatment of hens by Petaluma Farms, a California company that supplies humanely certified eggs to Whole Foods.
Direct Action Everywhere says they conducted a yearlong investigation of Petaluma and found hens injured, missing feathers, and being debeaked. However, the New York Times is reporting that the conditions depicted in the video are not necessarily in line with evidence of cruelty, according to experts.
Andrew Gunther is director of the certification group Animal Welfare Approved, a certification group that sets humane standards for these kinds of operations, and is quoted in the Times as saying that missing feathers on hens can be a sign of molting or feather pecking and treading "which happens when a rooster cleans its claws on a hen's back while having intimate relations."
He also said that what Direct Action Everywhere identifies as "debeaking," was actually beak trimming, a practice that is allowed by some certification groups but not others. The procedure aims to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism that can occur when birds are kept in close quarters.
Gunther did concede that the conditions depicted in the video indicate "poor management," but not "systematic failure."
Whole Foods says it is now giving its own set of humane standards to its egg suppliers.
Our requests for comment from Whole Foods and Direct Action Farms have not yet been answered.
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