D.C. animal rights group denied in Pennsylvania case

ARLINGTON – In a case where a guilty verdict could have opened a door for increased animal-rights actions against America’s farmers, a Pennsylvania farmer was found not guilty on charges of animal cruelty brought about by a Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group, at his 600,000-bird poultry facility.
calendar icon 12 June 2007
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A poultry farm decision delivered a big blow to animal rights activists in a case that could have brought increased actions against American farmers.

The case was brought about after a young man applied for a job on the farm, under false pretenses, and then proceeded to videotape two hours of footage at the farm that could have included some intentionally posed scenes. Compassion Over Killing (COK), a vegan activist group then received the tape and edited the film down to 20 minutes of the most disturbing footage. Some scenes were allegedly from stock film that was shot at locations away from the farm.

Glenn Esbenshade, manager of the farm, said his family business has operated since 1963, and would not still be operating if conditions shown in the video represented his facilities. He said that COK wants to change Americans’ diet from animal protein-based to a vegetable-base. “They are against animal production or using animals as food,” he said.

“I am pleased with the decision,” said Esbenshade. “Our company has and will continue to be committed to animal welfare, food safety and environmental stewardship.”

Humane Officer Joanna Seeton, who has been viewed as sympathetic to animal-rights causes, received the edited tape, then brought about charges without ever having been to the farm herself.

Kay Johnson, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, said the verdict is a solid indicator that a farmer with a quality animal welfare program can still be attacked through the legal system by animal rights fanatics who care more about their agenda then they do the truth.

“It is gratifying that the court saw through the careful (video) editing,” said Johnson. She continued by stating that America’s farmers and ranchers need to be vigilant. “Mr. Esbenshade has a long-term commitment to animal welfare and highly credible third-parties were willing to attest to his commitment,” she said.

According to Johnson, the Animal Welfare Alliance highly recommends that all farmers and ranchers adopt animal welfare guidelines if they have not already done so.

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