Reprinted from http://www.sunjournal.com
State executes search warrant at Turner egg farm
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
TURNER — State agriculture officials are executing a search warrant at Quality Egg of New England on the Plains Road, the former DeCoster Egg Farm, searching for evidence of animal cruelty.
A representative of Mercy for Animals, a national animal protection organization, was hired by Quality Egg and secretly videotaped conditions of the farm from Dec. 16 through Feb. 1. Mercy for Animals filed a formal complaint against the farm with the Animal Welfare Program of the Maine Department of Agriculture on March 19, seeking civil and criminal charges against the farm and its workers.
• Supervisors and other workers kicking live hens into manure pits;
• An ill, live hen hung by her leg on a feeding trough without apparent veterinary care or humane euthanasia;
• At least 150 hens stuck on the wires of their cages or trapped under parts of cages, unable to access food or water, or to protect themselves from their cage mates;
• Holes in the flooring of dilapidated cages, many large enough for live hens to fall through into the manure pits below;
• Inhumanely unclean conditions, including extremely decomposed corpses and rotting eggs in cages with live hens producing eggs for human consumption, and hens living with feces caked on them.
• Live hens with their body parts stuck in caging, including at least one live hen's face, pressed against moving conveyor belts.
Quality Egg, originally founded as AJ DeCoster Egg Farms in 1961, was reorganized in 1997 as a limited liability company. The largest producer of eggs in New England, the company's Web site publishes a pledge to strive for "safe quality production at all times," including "meeting the demanding quality standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture at all times."
According to Maine law, egg-laying hens fall under the protection of Maine's animal cruelty laws. Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson has been assigned to handle this case.
According Mercy for Animals' undercover investigation, on Dec. 17, "I saw a hen in a top battery cage who was stuck under her front cage wall. ...I tried to push her gently, but she wouldn't move and appeared wedged in between cage wires."
Pointing out the problem to a supervisor, the undercover worker reports that the supervisor "grabbed the hen by a leg and yanked her free forcefully. As he did so, the hen cried out and flapped her wings. She was briefly caught at her cage door" before the supervisor yanked the bird again, spun her around one time by her neck and dropped her on the ground, nudging her with his foot toward the manure pit. "Halfway under a bottom-level egg belt, she popped back onto the floor, flapping her wings, thrashing and bouncing back and forth," according to the worker.
The search warrant, filed in Lewiston District Court, is impounded until State Police file an inventory of their search.
Norma Worley, of the state's Animal Welfare Department, along with three state animal agents and four state troopers, assigned to provide security for the Department of Ag, were at the farm Wednesday afternoon, according to a Sun Journal reporter and photographer at the scene.
It appeared investigators were also removing plastic trash bags from buildings at the farm.
Bob LeClair, a safety compliance officer at the farm, said he could not comment on the situation but a prepared statement from Quality Egg would be made available soon.
There is video, too.
Holidays all seem to center around a corpse in one way or another. I hope you have a happy Easter. I hope that your Easter doesn't involve being cruel to your fellow beings, including chickens, rabbits, lambs and pigs.