Animal Rights Group Sneaks Onto Chicken Farms, Makes Video
Business Says Group Broke Laws, Endangered Animals
October 5, 2005

SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY, Pa. -- An animal rights group based in Philadelphia has targeted a major egg supplier in the Susquehanna Valley.

The group, called Hugs for Puppies, conducted an undercover investigation and then sent out a DVD and a press kit to media outlets, including News 8. On Your Side investigative reporter Susan Shapiro says it has raised concern about the group's tactics.

Chicken Fight

Long, low chicken houses dot the landscape in the Susquehanna Valley. An animal rights group wants the public to see what it considers the dirty secrets inside.

"Obviously (you) can see very, very cramped conditions," says Chris Price of Hugs for Puppies of a video the group says it secretly taped at night inside Kreider Farms hen houses. Kreider is one of the largest egg producers in the state, selling to stores and restaurants.

The activists saw thousands of chickens crowded into wire "battery" cages they consider unsanitary and inhumane.

"Each chicken has about half the size of a piece of copy paper to live their entire life. Their feathers are ripped off from their necks to push through the bars," said Lisa Levinson of Hugs for Puppies. "Because (they) stacked three cages upon each other, feces drops from one to the other."

"The smell is horrible, revolting from all the feces," Price said.

The group said they entered hen houses at three Kreider locations; Mount Joy, Columbia and Middletown as part of a 10-month investigation. They went in despite signs indicating it is a bio-secure area and that you can enter by permission only.

"In order to get this video and do investigation you were trespassing on private property?" asked News 8's Shapiro.

"I imagine. I don't know too much about the laws," Price answered.

"Well, how do you do something like this if you don't know about the laws?" Shapiro said.

"I guess knowing the legality wasn't a requisite to actually getting in the facility. It didn't seem very dramatic, doors open, anyone could go in."

No one from Kreider Farms would go on camera to talk about the Hugs for Puppies investigation because police are now investigating the matter. They also wouldn't allow News 8 inside the chicken houses. Operations Manager Tom Beachler instead referred News 8 to Penn Ag Industries Association in Harrisburg.

"By wandering in various facilities on same evening or single evenings really puts animals in dire risk for disease outbreak," said Christian Herr, of Penn Ag Industries Association. "This is an illegal trespassing violation of the law we don't condone in any way."

There are no federal or state regulations for housing poultry, only industry standards. Those standards are based on research from Penn State and other universities.

But other countries have banned "battery" cages and phased out intense farming practices.

At Chenoa Manor in Avondale, chickens and other animals roam the property. The nonprofit sanctuary has a number of chickens that were once in factory farms.

Veterinarian Rob Teti started the sanctuary. He said it's a poor excuse to say they are just chickens.

"If same thing happened to our companion animals nobody would tolerate this," Teti said.

Hugs for Puppies is hoping people don't tolerate it after seeing their video and hearing their story.

Susquehanna Regional and Lower Swatara Township police are investigating the entries to Kreider facilities. A Lower Swatara detective said it would only amount to a summary citation since there was no apparent damage.

As for Kreider, the vice president for sales and marketing told Shapiro that he is not convinced all of the group's video was from Kreider facilities.