Sunday, July 30, 2006

Something Smells Rotten

A Wegmans grocery store is one of the greatest institutions in the modern era. A local one--about 15 minutes from my place--houses food from all over the world, an upscale cafeteria (upscale for a grocery store) and consistently good prices. Leaving the parking lot from a recent trip, I witnessed yet another Wegmans addition: a protest.

About half-a-dozen young people stood on the street corner just outside the store waving large signs encouraging a boycott of Wegmans. A banner said, " Watch the Video and Decide for Yourself" The film is a good half-an-hour so I watched the trailer to see if the larger version was worth watching. I doubt it is.

The film and website are entirely dedicated to complaining about the living conditions of the chickens in Wegmans' egg farms. The trailer showed a series of shots of chickens struggling in small cages, flapping in feces and walking over dead cage-mates. An attractive young woman (who I swear is in every animal-rights video I've seen) declared "You know something's really wrong there, that that can happen."

Let's set aside the obvious problem with making such a wide conclusion seemly based on this small sample of information. Let's ignore that Wegmans claims they meet or exceed industry standards, a fact verified by New York State Police. Let's even table the assertion that these conditions are typical in other egg farms and Wegmans is being targeted only because it is large. My question is, why insist everyone boycott the entire store? Their Diet Coke supply has nothing to do with chickens. You could even still buy eggs there (they sell organic eggs where the chickens are free-ranged and not kept in cages).

It makes a larger impact if you deny an entire store because of their eggs, that much is certain. But Wegmans is a popular store (and was incredibly crowded today). It's much more reasonable to ask people to boycott their eggs then get all their groceries elsewhere (with less selection at higher prices). The protesters clearly have not thought through their strategy to get Wegmans to change which suggests they also haven't thought through their accusations.


jeremy h. said...

But... do the chickens have large talons?

I admit it, I have never been to Wegmans.

SmoothB said...

Bad tactics implies bad accusations? Weren't you saying, like a minute ago, that libertarians have bad tactics when it comes to advancing their cause?

David said...

To clarify, bad tactics does not automatically mean bad logic. (Though I can see, based on my wording, why you might think I claimed this.) I was merely trying to use their thinking on tactics as a signal for the depth of their thinking in general. If the logic seems shaky and the tactics truly are (as I think both are here), the logic might really be bad (as I believe it is in this case).

Libertarian arguments (economic, philosophical, political, etc), however, have a solid foundation of fact and/or are based firmly on philosophical truths. JS Mill comes to mind. Thanks for making me point out the distinction.

Spyware Remover said...

I've grown up with Wegmans for 40 years. They do more for their community than anyone else.

Face it, there's always something to protest. But chickens? Yeash.


Joe Sixpack said...

What's "clear" is that you didn't do your homework. :-)

An attractive young woman... declared "You know something's really wrong there, that that can happen." Let's set aside the obvious problem with making such a wide conclusion seemly based on this small sample of information.

Hey, you're the one drawing broad conclusions based on nothing more than a movie trailer.

Watch the film, or read about the case.

You'll learn that the filmmakers surveyed the farm on three separate occasions, and each time they found countless hens covered with untreated sores, drowning in liquid manure, and dying from neglect. Many animals were forced to stand and sleep atop the badly decomposed corpses of their cage-mates.

You'll also learn that the question of whether Wegmans meets "industry standards" is irrelevant, since industry standards permit virtually any practice that's profitable. Industry standards permit burning off much of a hen's nerve-rich beak without the use of any painkiller, despite the fact that ethologists have determined that the procedure causes life-long pain. Industry standards permit disposing of male chicks (who aren't profitable for egg production) by tossing them into meat grinders while they're fully conscious. So much for industry standards.

You'll learn that Wegmans is not being targetted "only because it is large" but also because it claims to be a "forward-thinking" company that leads the way in animal welfare. So far, it lags behind true industry leaders who have already phased out battery-cage egg production.

Why boycott the store? To send a message. To motivate Wegmans executives to do the right thing. They don't care about animal welfare, but they do care about profits.