Foie Gras from Diseased Birds

Santa Cruz Chicken Hatchery Sued for Animal Abuse

Animal Legal Defense Fund and Compassion Over Killing Seek to Stop Abuse of Newborn Chicks Following Undercover Investigation

January 11, 2012 • For Immediate Release

Cheryl Leahy (COK): 310-375-2280 (office); 773-259-7760 (mobile);
Lisa Franzetta (ALDF): 707-795-2533 x1015 (office); 415-203-5472 (mobile);

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.: This morning, represented by Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) attorneys, Compassion Over Killing (COK) filed a complaint in the California Superior Court in Santa Cruz to stop alleged ongoing animal abuse at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries, Inc., a Santa Cruz chicken hatchery that handles millions of chickens per year. Undercover video footage, taken by a COK investigator working inside Cal-Cruz Hatcheries, reveals shocking abuse of newly-hatched chicks. As described in the lawsuit, this video documents numerous routine abuses—including acts amounting to felony animal cruelty—that are in violation of the California law, and which in turn constitute unlawful and unfair business practices under the California Business and Professions Code.

Why are animal advocates and attorneys up in arms over conditions for chickens at Cal-Cruz? COK’s investigation uncovered abuses including:

  • Dead hatchlings and their body parts, and mutilated but still living hatchlings, trapped in and under processing machinery;
  • Hatchlings with ripped or missing skin, exposed organs, and severely injured feet and legs left in bins for several hours at a time, where they gasped, shook, and struggled to move;
  • Baby birds cruelly tossed in a bucket of liquid waste where they struggled to escape before drowning;
  • Hatchlings tossed like garbage into bins and then forced down a clogged disposal chute with a pole and hose.

ALDF and COK argue that these unlawfully abusive practices violate the California Business and Professions Code, undermining the integrity of the market. By grossly disregarding the welfare of animals, Cal-Cruz is cutting corners that allow it to produce hatchlings at a reduced cost. The lawsuit seeks an immediate end to the abusive and neglectful practices causing unnecessary suffering at Cal-Cruz.

Compassion Over Killing immediately turned over the video evidence to law enforcement authorities upon completion of the investigation; a follow-up investigation conducted by humane law enforcement corroborated the evidence of abuse and neglect and resulted in the impoundment of 88 hatchlings.

Cal-Cruz hatches thousands of chicks per week—amounting to millions of birds per year—for shipment to growers who house and feed the birds until they are ready for slaughter. ALDF was recently informed by a Cal-Cruz representative that many of these chicks are sent to Bauer Family Farms and Carlson Family Farms and are ultimately destined for meat counters at Northern California grocery stores.

“The systematic torture and reckless neglect of baby birds at Cal-Cruz is not only shocking—it is also illegal under the California Business and Professions Code,” explains ALDF’s director of litigation Carter Dillard. “These mistreated and abused baby birds deserve justice. It’s time that their suffering be recognized under the law and permanently stopped,” says Cheryl Leahy, general counsel of Compassion Over Killing.

Copies of the lawsuit and footage of COK’s investigation at Cal-Cruz are available upon request.


ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. COK is on the web at