by David Dayen | September 15 2017
When Amazon purchased Whole Foods last month, it didn’t just get the retail locations. It picked up Whole Foods’s baggage as well. Among the bigger issues inherited by Amazon appears to be a four-month investigation from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere that challenges Whole Foods’s core selling point of healthy and humane food.
The group accused Pitman Family Farms, the maker of Mary’s Free Range Chicken and a supplier to Whole Foods in six Western states, of breaking its promises of free-range environments for its birds.
Direct Action Everywhere, whose mission is to create animal welfare-friendly cities and outlaw factory farming practices, visited a dozen Pitman farms and never once saw a chicken roaming outside. The group reported that it found no indications of outdoor living, such as feathers or fecal matter. Twenty-four hour surveillance cameras attached to six separate locations revealed no outdoor birds either, the activists said. Instead, chickens were packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside dusty sheds with degraded air quality, forced to challenge one another for access to food and water.
Video of Direct Action Everywhere’s findings showed scattered fighting among the chickens and smaller birds with injuries, including one with its eye pecked out. They also alleged evidence of “debeaking,” a procedure involving severing the tip of a chicken’s beak with a laser to prevent pecking.
“We saw things that even shocked us,” Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of the group, told The Intercept in an interview. Hsiung characterized the overcrowding as the worst he’s ever seen at a poultry farm, with investigators were nearly unable to walk through the flocks without stepping on birds.
The investigation took place from January to May at roughly a dozen Pitman farm locations in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Hsiung alleged no meaningful difference between the farms and reported no evidence of free-range activity. “We couldn’t find a single bird outside,” he said.