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Pennsylvania Court Finds that Animal Abuse on Egg Factory Farm is Legal
by Compassion Over Killing (COK)
Tuesday Jun 5th, 2007 5:22 PM
Acquittal in Cruelty Case Further Demonstrates that the Foxes Are Guarding the Factory Farm Henhouse
On June 1, 2007, a Lancaster County judge acquitted a Pennsylvania egg factory farm owner and manager of animal cruelty charges, essentially re-writing state cruelty law to find that abuse is perfectly legal as long as it is committed against farmed animals.

[Watch our 5-minute undercover investigative video at]

“This ruling reveals that—under this judge’s opinion—farm animals in Pennsylvania have no legal protection from the horrific conditions that were clearly documented inside this egg factory farm” stated Erica Meier, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Compassion Over Killing (COK). “This court may have acquitted these two defendants, but the court of public opinion is certainly turning against the egg industry and its cruel practices.”

The verdict was handed down after a trial in which the court was presented with undercover video evidence revealing appalling conditions for hens in the facility. The footage was gathered by a COK investigator who was employed at Esbenshade in late 2005, then presented to Pennsylvania-certified humane officer Johnna Seeton of the Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network (PLAN) who subsequently filed 70 counts of criminal animal cruelty against the owner and manager of the farm. See Background section below for more detail.

According to COK’s general counsel Cheryl Leahy, “If these animals had been dogs or cats, there’s little doubt this case would have resulted in a conviction. There is a clear double standard here, and that hypocrisy is troubling.”

Read COK’s press release on the court’s ruling.


From November 30 to December 9, 2005, an investigator affiliated with Compassion Over Killing worked undercover at Esbenshade Farms, one of the nation’s top egg producers, located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. While there, he documented appalling conditions for hundreds of thousands of hens including:

* birds overcrowded in wire cages so small, they cannot spread their wings,
* hens left to suffer from untreated illnesses or injuries,
* birds with their wings, legs, or feet entangled in the wires of cages, unable to access food or water,
* injured or dying birds removed from their cages and left in the aisles without access to food or water,
* birds impaled on the wires of the cages with many found already dead as a result of the painful immobilization, and
* hens living in cages amongst decomposing bodies of other birds.