Farm videos barred at egg-price antitrust trial in Chicago

The video could cause unfair prejudice, the judge said
calendar icon 22 September 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

A US judge has barred Kraft, Kellogg and other major food producers from showing what the court called "shocking" and "heart-wrenching" videos of conditions inside certain hen houses at an upcoming antitrust trial against egg producers and marketers, reported Reuters.

In a ruling on Tuesday, US District Judge Steven Seeger in Chicago said the risk of unfair prejudice against the egg producers and marketers by showing the graphic videos was "extreme" and outweighed any minimal value in the antitrust litigation accusing them of curbing domestic supply in order to charge higher prices.

"After watching the videos, it would not take much for jurors to believe that the egg industry abuses chickens," Seeger wrote.

Kraft and the other plaintiffs wanted to play the videos at the trial next month to bolster their claim that an industry-wide animal welfare initiative announced in 2002 was a "sham" and actually part of a broader scheme to restrain the supply of eggs.

Seeger's ruling on the videos was among several orders he issued on Tuesday addressing the scope of what jurors will be allowed to see and hear at the five-week trial.

Kraft and the other plaintiffs, also including General Mills and Nestle, are seeking more than $110 million in damages against United Egg Producers and other defendants, including two farms.

Lawyers for the defendants on Wednesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Representatives for Kraft and the other companies either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seeger is presiding over a case that was previously in Philadelphia federal court as part of a multidistrict litigation proceeding. Kraft's case returned to the Northern District of Illinois in 2019.

Lawyers for Kraft and co-plaintiffs said they obtained the videos from the Humane Society of the United States. They purport to show "day-to-day operations within defendants' facilities."

In a court filing, attorneys for United Egg Producers and the other defendants said the videos were "surreptitiously" recorded by animal rights activists and include "highly edited footage."

The attorneys also said the recordings were irrelevant to the plaintiffs' claims.

Seeger said the plaintiffs' lawyers do not need the videos to argue that the egg industry's promotion of animal welfare was not genuine.

"After personally watching all of the videos, the court is convinced that the videos would undermine the truth-seeking function of the trial," Seeger wrote.

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.