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Animal Equality Files Lawsuit Against Foster Farms

Animal Equality files a lawsuit against Foster Farms after an undercover investigation in a Foster Farms' hatchery revealed chicks being crushed, drowned and mutilated.
June 7, 2022
Lawsuit by Animal Equality against Foster Farms Lawsuit of Animal Equality against Foster Farms

Animal Equality filed a lawsuit today – June 6, 2022 – in California Superior Court in Stanislaus County against Foster Farms, a West Coast poultry company that specializes in chicken and turkey products. The suit follows Animal Equality’s findings after an undercover investigation revealed baby chicks being crushed, drowned and mutilated at a Foster Farms’ hatchery, Ellenwood Hatchery, located in Waterford, CA.

At Ellenwood Hatchery, approximately 3.3 million chicks are shipped out per week to Foster Farms’ factory farms. Foster Farms supplies chicken products to Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Target and Publix grocery stores, as well as the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A.

In a 2021 undercover investigation, Animal Equality’s investigator found routine suffering of chicks at Ellenwood Hatchery that directly violates California Penal Code sections 597 and 597.1, which protect animals from cruel conduct. California’s robust anti-cruelty laws include protection for farmed animals. In addition to being illegal, the hatchery’s inhumane practices are expressly prohibited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Chicken Council and reflect Foster Farms’ efforts to cut costs, constituting unlawful business practices. As such, Foster Farms is violating California’s Unfair Competition Law, which is the basis of Animal Equality’s suit.

The practices discovered at the hatchery present clear cut cases of animal cruelty under California law, yet local law enforcement has refused to act. The baby chicks that end up at this hatchery deserve better. They deserve to enjoy the protections the law affords them.

Sarah Hanneken, Legal Advocacy Counsel of Animal Equality

Animal Equality’s undercover investigation at the hatchery owned by Foster Farms, showed serious criminal violations. Covert footage and eyewitness statements documented:

  • Newly hatched chicks crushed or mutilated by fast-moving, automated processing machinery;
  • Live chicks found drowning in water and chemical foam on the floors underneath conveyor belts;
  • Injured birds left in trays for hours before being dumped into a chute leading to a grinder, or dumped directly into buckets filled with shells, yolks, and dead birds, where they are crushed to death or left to suffocate or drown;
  • Injured birds being dismembered by hatchery workers with shovels.

The law may permit raising chickens, but Foster Farms has no right to commit animal cruelty in the process. In California, it’s illegal to make abuse the price of doing business.

Ryan Gordon of Advancing Law for Animals, the law firm representing Animal Equality

Animal Equality is seeking a court order prohibiting Foster Farms from continuing these unlawful business practices and requiring the company to establish policies and procedures that protect the baby chicks at Ellenwood Hatchery from unnecessary injury, suffering and death, in accordance with California’s anti-cruelty laws.

In a letter dated December 2, 2021, and several times subsequently thereafter, Animal Equality presented their findings along with extensive undercover video footage to Stanislaus County District Attorney Brigit Fladager and Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. Animal Equality detailed how the company routinely subjects animals to needless suffering and allows injured chicks to be without proper care and attention, all in clear violation of the state’s anti-cruelty laws. Despite several attempts to urge prosecutorial action, Animal Equality has not received a response, and no enforcement action has been taken against the company.

How you can help: It’s our individual responsibility to respect the lives of animals used for food, including chickens, by eliminating them from our diets and incorporating plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, and meat alternatives. 

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