Santa Cruz Chicken Hatchery Sued for Unlawful Business Practices Due to Shocking Animal Abuse

Posted on January 11, 2012

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

Cal-Cruz crueltyUpdate:
June 12th, 2012: Compassion Over Killing (COK), represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), finalized a settlement and court order resolving a lawsuit alleging widespread egregious animal abuse and neglect at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries, Inc., a Santa Cruz hatchery that processed millions of birds each year destined for the chicken and duck meat industries. Read more…

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

54 thoughts on “Santa Cruz Chicken Hatchery Sued for Unlawful Business Practices Due to Shocking Animal Abuse

  1. Sharon says:

    This is why large scale operations like this one should be outlawed, and actually, never should have been allowed to exist in the first place.

  2. john639 says:

    This treatment is disgusting! This is why I NEVER buy eggs or any food with eggs. NEVER!

  3. Trish Ranney says:

    It is impossible to even find an intelligent comment. The video speaks for itself, as I sit here with tears welled up in my eyes and my hand over my mouth in disbelief that human beings could do these things to another living creature when their pain and suffering is so clearly obvious. I’m physically ill after watching this. And I know that this sort of treatment happens in virtually all of the factory farms. But it never fails to sicken me when I see it.

    Why is it so hard to legislate when this type of footage is so readily available? My God, what must we do???

  4. Naomi says:

    Where is the compassion? How heartless can people be…

  5. Linda says:

    Most people i know don’t want to watch or read about this. Like a video of a jerk throwing a dog off a bridge, this video will remain in my mind forever. jerks !

  6. Robert Becker says:

    I TOTALLY agree! Get more Law Enforcement out there to do under cover investigations!! The same thing should be done to the bastards!!!

  7. Karen Vaughan says:

    These places need to be shut down and the people that run them should be prosecuted to the highest extent. I realize this is a process for the world to be able to eat, but these people should give these animals some respect before being slaughtered. This does not have to be so cruel. AT least give them some respect with what little life they have. So So SAD.

  8. Micheal Moffat says:

    Peace and Love

  9. Trish says:

    I could not watch the video as the description was plenty. Such mass production facilities like this should be shut down immediately. There is no place in the 21st century for this animal abuse. The more i read about the way farm animals and chickens are raised, the more I hesitate to buy meat to eat. Am trying to substitute other foods to replace meat in my diet. Succeeding, little by little. pretty much down to chicken now and I feel so much better for it.

  10. Louise C. Rawls says:

    I totally agree with all the comments made so far with the belief that some humans are beyond compassion. Rather they look at living moving animals as disposable innate objects that can be disposed of in the most cruelest ways. Consequences should be imposed on the owners of these horrid factories. Really hard & severe laws need to be enacted & used by officials in this country. God bless the Animal Legal Defense Fund as without them this country would not have made the gains they have so far. Humans can be difficult to understand & should be punished for there cruel handling of animals. We speak for those who can’t!!!!!

  11. RB says:

    The owners and workers of places like this should be in jail. They are not fit for society.

  12. VICKY says:


  13. C.A.WEBER says:

    After watching this video I can’t even speak; all I can do is cry. What kind of society permits this sort of thing to take place. This is not civilized treatment of animals and shows a distinct disregard for life. I sincerely hope that something can be done to stop this cruelty and suffering and prosecute those who are any way engaged in these activities. No good can come from what these people are doing. They should all burn in hell forever.

  14. As long as human beings lust after flesh, eggs and milk, animal suffering will continue.

    Anyone who is serious about stopping animal abuse needs to stop being part of it.

    No demand for flesh and dairy means no farming, which means no animal suffering. Common decency should propel us all towards a vegan way of living.

  15. Monica Lucas says:

    I live in Santa Cruz County. Home of a lot of freethinking human beings. These atrocities are rampant behind every animal processing door, and no matter what the CEO of any of these companies say, “We don’t condone this kind of treatment,” you can believe that this is condoned at EVERY level as industry standard. Billions of precious lives are tortured and killed every day because we let it happen. Thank you, ALDF. Someday the laws will change to include animals in the circle of compassion on this planet, because some people simply DO NOT CARE about the misery they inflict.

  16. Dara Blaty says:

    I can’t believe this is happening in America. When will we finally get it, that with a little more compassion, we can feed everyone. We all die, but can these poor birds and animals die without terror? I’m sure there is a way!

  17. McKenzie says:

    After watching this, and throwing up after watching this, made me absolutely sick to my stomach. This NEVER should been allowed! Me personally, the people that do this what they want to call a job, should be locked behind bars. Or go through what they do to those babies. Such mass production facilities like this should be shut down immediately.

  18. Pat says:

    This is sickening but not surprising anything goes when it comes to money. If they did a full scale investigation of this place they may find more than animal abuse but, maybe a boatload of illegals who even if they care about animals abuse them for the sake of a job.

  19. Stacy says:

    This torture continues , and has gone on for so long , we never stop hearing about the cruelty from these monster butchers . I hope they go Bankrupt goodbye to them forever they dont deserve to have a business !!!!

  20. Jennifer says:

    Not everyone is going to become a vegan, so realistically there has to be a way to produce meat without such cruel and wanton disregard for life. There should be quality of life if not length for these animals. Thank you ALDF for continuing to fight for these animals. They deserve all the help we can give them.

  21. nadia says:

    And this is why I DONATE to ALDF. They handle the lawsuit and I buy organic eggs (when I do and this is pretty rare).

  22. Amanda Sather says:

    The earlier comment that follows says it ALL:

    Posted by Linda Nunn and Paul Johnson on January 11th, 2012

    As long as human beings lust after flesh, eggs and milk, animal suffering will continue. Anyone who is serious about stopping animal abuse needs to stop being part of it. No demand for flesh and dairy means no farming, which means no animal suffering. Common decency should propel us all towards a vegan way of living.

    I believe the answer is two-pronged:
    1. Societal pressure to prosecute these criminals (i.e. contact your local DA or whatever it is called in the States – sorry – I’m in Canada. JAM their phone lines, mailboxes, and email boxes with demands that they enforce the laws that exist. ALDF can work at drafting better laws (if they aren’t already) in the meantime. Take this story to EVERY local newspaper, newstation, etc., and do not let up until they run the story WITH information on what people can do if they agree that these actions are unconsionable (such as provide local DA’s numbers, a website, etc.)

    2. Education programs in schools (they need not be expensive or complicated!). Just a couple of dedicated people who can explain to the kids that the eggs their parents buy in a regular grocery store have come from chickens that were hurt very bad by some very mean people (i.e. have the presentation be age-specific as overdoing it and traumatizing the children will backfire). Children are amazing influences on their parents and if compassion can be encouraged in children, they will grow with that value firmly instilled.

    ALDF – I am ashamed Canada does not have a chapter or similar organization as Canada is just as bad or even worse in the abuses and atrocities it allows to be carried out on farm animals. Whenever I share information about factory farms to people I know to try to convince them to become at least vegetarian (with milk from cruelty-free milk producers and eggs from local farms where they SEE exactly the living conditions the chickens have). Ultimately, we should all become vegans if we consider ourselves to be evolving, but I think it needs to happen in stages or it won’t catch on.

    ALDF – PLEASE let me know what I can do to get a similar organization as yours started in Canada. We have many welfare organizations but NO organizations with the knowledge or money to sue factory farms that I am aware of. Please help us help our animals. You are an inspiration and the animals in Canada need people here to speak for them as you do in the States.

    Amanda Sather
    Victoria, BC Canada

  23. Susan Elizabeth says:

    My initial reaction, of course, was horror. Then I yelled, “How could anyone do a job like that?????” How on earth could you handle those precious, sentient beings with such callous abandon. Everyone should be required to watch this video. There is no excuse. Human’s inhumanity is beyond saddening.

  24. Michelle says:

    Why I am vegan and will never eat anything that contains eggs. The atrocities at Cal Cruz Hatcheries are the norm – this is what happens to baby chicks in the egg industry. Eggs are not essential to human health anyway.

  25. n says:

    I wonder what people would think if there was a video tape of some people raising kids Ie parents on crack, pregnant woman who are using meth, hmmmmm much more easy to pick isolated incidents in animals than the day to day abuse that goes on at the hands of humans to humans hmm

  26. Rossy Osborne says:

    Sorry, but I’m not brave enough to watch the video clip. Reading the dot points and then the comments was traumatic enough for me.
    I solomly believe that these ‘workers’ would have to place their brain, hearts and ethics into a freezer before starting work each day, and as for their conscience? Lord knows, where that was stashed!
    Millions of us cry out for this evil to stop, but please tell us or show us how to make it all stop, for ever.
    Could the horrific videos be shown at high schools and univerity’s to make every human being aware of what really transpires for them to eat???
    I don’t have the answers, so please make a good example of this lot, and praying it will cause others to rethink their company ethics.

  27. Concerned neighbor says:

    Nobody mentioned this big facility is right smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood right across from an elementary school AND right next to the SPCA. Can you believe that. I live in the neighborhood and put up with the putrid smells that come out of this hatchery. Not to mention a constant shower of baby chick hairs that spew out of the roof 24 7. Take a look at the roof sometime. You’ll see a nasty pile of yellow residue underneath the exhaust pipes. Once every few months you’ll see workers shoveling it off the roof to hide it. Does anyone notice? I dont think so. It seems everyone in the neighborhood turns a blind eye. WAKE UP neighbors. This couldnt be legal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Lets get this hatchery out of our beautiful beach town neighborhood. Its about time. Theyve been here since 1947………

  28. Baron Miller says:

    This factory stuff is intolerable. Very pleased to see this lawsuit. A great use of time, energy and money.

  29. Kristi Parsons says:

    Am I bad for wishing those workers would suffer a slow, horrible, cruel death in perhaps a meat grinder? I can only take comfort in believing that what goes around, comes around.

  30. Michelle Nevers says:

    I choked back tears as I watched this. This despicable facility should be shut down. Honestly, I am stunned that people could have such disregard for life. It makes me sick.

  31. jana kaplan says:

    I am not going to watch the video, as I can only imagine the horror. Seeing images such as this makes me thankful every day that I have been granted the ability to choose what I eat – and wear. My hope is that the population of the US and the world at large will come to realize that factory farming is just a bad thing all around – no matter how you try to rationalize it – it is bad ethically, humanely, globally and health-wise. Logically and scientifically, you cannot argue with that!

  32. David says:

    I will make sure any store that I shop at
    that buys from this company, I will not buy from. I will check every store in america that buys from them and I will post them.

  33. Kathy says:

    When God gave man dominion over animals, I don’t think he had this in mind!

  34. Donna Rodner says:

    I was very happy to hear of the lawsuit brought forward on this facility! I agree with Trish Ramney on January 11th 2012 comment. Where are the INSPECTORS? Where are the FINES?
    This facility should be closed down until this abuse comes to a halt!

  35. Darlene Moak says:

    This is why I am a monthly supporter of ALDF and it is why I no longer eat eggs or drink milk. I am grateful for the tireless efforts to make this world a better, more compassionate place. This is horrible, unspeakable, inexcusable abuse. I don’t know people who are responsible for this type of atrocity can live with themselves. I just don’t. And people who eat eggs produced at facilities like this are as responsible as the people in the facilities themselves.

  36. Grant Johnston says:

    I think Cal-Cruz is a disgusting company but I have a hard time blaming the employees. They probably have kids who are hungry. Give them a Green Card and a better job and they would be happy to quit.

  37. Virginian says:

    SO far only one comment that takes up the incredible concern that people routinely show for animal suffering, but not human suffering. I am appalled by this video. My family has had chickens for many years and we handle them daily so that they become very tame – like pets. They freely on our property, eating bugs, grass, clover, grain and table scraps and give us the most beautiful bright orange eggs you ever saw. I love these animals… but I think we need to be more concerned about the suffering of children, newborns in impoverished parts of your community. If we had fewer humans being raised in squalor, perhaps hatcheries such as these would have more difficulty finding employees.
    Just a thought.

  38. Emily says:

    This is disgusting and terrible. After this video i am never eating eggs again. What do we do to stop this?

  39. Marie says:

    This is horrible the poor little babie. Why don’t they put their own babies threw this. They are living breathing animals.

  40. abby komistek says:

    Wow that is really the saddest thing i have probably ever seen in my entire life!!!! i hate the people who not only own this company but the people who work there and cant care enough about the animals lives to say ANYTHING!!!!!!!! i am so mad that i am actually about to cry because it really breaks my heart to see how one of the cutest little animals could have a fate that is unthinkable even in the mind of a murderer and isnt that what they are… the people NEED, and HAVE TO PAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Jenny says:

    I live across the street from Cal Cruz – a nondescript building that has huge semi-trucks hall off thousands of chicks a week. When the story first hit, we thought they were busted for sure. I was shocked when the DA didn’t prosecute, even with petitions flooding his office. My family, we’re vegetarian, don’t buy eggs, eat very little dairy. We’d really like to see an end to factory farming. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing on the lawsuit. My heart is with you and hope you can bring some justice and safety to those little birds.

  42. After working in California in Corona for several years I could smell the local farms as soon I left the Ontrio Airport. Along with knowledge of what California permits as far as industrialized farm abuse, I became a vegetarian, and as such, my family and I do not buy dairy products from California. I’ve passed this message elsewhere also.

    Around the world this happens to animals, I cannot understand the need for certain low end humans to deliberately abuse an animal right before it is slaughtered or farmed (granted slaughtering is abuse in itself).

    This has to stop and I much appreciate the efforts of ALDF and to actively prevent this.

  43. Michelle Hiles says:

    This is absolutely horrifying. The people involved in this operation are not human, they are evil monsters. I pray and wish for this horrific and unnecessary abuse to discontinue immediately. The people at fault must be held accountable for their actions. They no longer should be able to get away with illegal actions. As a community, state, and nation, we need to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.

  44. E. J. Rich says:

    Honestly, there is only one thing you can do to stop these outrageous crimes against animals. All the law suits in the world won’t be able to stop it.

    Because of these abuses, twenty years ago I became a vegan. I first boycotted tuna because of the deaths caused to dolphins caught in the nets who died from lack of oxygen. That worked! Now you can’t find a can of tuna that doesn’t say only line caught. The second thing I boycotted was baby veal. That has worked as well. Few places serve veal anymore and the production has dropped 65%. Boycotting makes a real difference, as you all have said.

    But there is an even better way now. Three years ago I reluctantly gave up being a vegan. By this time many very small farms had decided to buck the corporations and lure the public back to the way chickens and eggs were supposed to be raised and treated – with compassion and respect and healthy.

    Now I had no excuse to boycott eggs or chicken, but it had been so long since I had eaten it, I didn’t want it at all anymore. I told this to a fellow vegan and this what they said. ” If you don’t buy, support these small farmers, they will have to shut down. They have to make a living. And if they have to shut down, the corporations have won.” That made sense so I started buying them.

    Now these small farms are cutting into the corporation’s sales and profits so successfully that they now are cleaning up their act to compete. That is why you now see organic, free range eggs in every supermarket now. ( But beware. You can’t trust the corporations because the oversight is so poor, who knows what they are really doing. That doesn’t mean you can trust every small farm either, but your odds are way better and in most cases you can visit the small farm to see, but you can not visit the factory farms.

    Oh, and by the way, I am now eating eggs again and I now again know what I have been missing!
    However, I have not been able yet to go the chicken route yet.

  45. Helana says:

    This video disgusting and it breaks my heart. As a small backyard hatchery owner…I have never seen such horrible abuse to chickens before. How these people could do this and sleep at night is beyond me. Every one of them need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent. These are living creatures and we have a duty to protect them. Whether they are layers or meat birds, they deserve to be treated humanly. How would these people feel if they were thrown around, left to drown or had their limbs ripped from them? I bet the world would be in an uproar over it. There is no difference. Just because they may be dinner one day for us, does not give us the right to abuse them. My hatchery birds live a free range life, they are spoiled and treated well. I could never treat an animal this way. I can’t wait till these people stand before God and have to answer for their actions.

  46. DEBY says:


  47. shannon says:

    I did not watch the video. Reading the story actually made my tummy hurt so I can only imagine what the video would be like. So sad. We have 4 chickens Alice, Aurora, Ariel and Giselle. I treat them like pets. We hold them, cuddle them and talk to them. This story greatly saddened me :( Poor babies.

  48. Kelly says:

    I was way to scared to watch the video– my legs are shaking just from the text.

    I also have hens in my backyard (hatched from eggs– roos were sent to good friends I knew), and it is so horrid to see that chicks just like mine are so horribly mistreated in these “hate-ries.” MY GOODNESS!!!

    How to stop the cruelty?

    Oh, the suffering of sentient, unique, fun PET chickens. And they wonder why I don’t eat meat.

  49. Kelly says:

    Serves those bastardly hatchery people– I mean MONSTERS– right to be sued!

  50. Kelly says:

    BTW, my hens are named Qwerty, Coco, Swan, and Snowflake (if anyone was wondering).

  51. judy mihlenbecck says:

    I unfortunately went ahead and watched this deplorable video. my crying with sadness and yelling with anger has subsided now but I am left with such a feeling of helplessness. I agree with all 50 comments I read prior to mine. I have been a vegetarian for over 20 yrs and am trying hard to select only those animal by-products that are humanely raised. I no longer drink milk but now after watching this video I plan to not eat eggs even tho they are supposedly free range. I am so grateful to ALDF for all the wonderful work you do. I will continue to support you. Keep up the GREAT work!!!! Thank you

  52. Cindy Wines says:

    It is absolutely disgusting and pathetic how they treat these precious little chicks like they were pieces of garbage. The USDA should charge this company $200 Million dollars, shut them down. There should be cameras in all the factories. There is no excuse for these employees not picking up the baby chicks or making sure they are treated with respect. It is sad, sad. The same thing goes for baby calves, the horn burning, the mother cows that are hooked up to machinery their whole life, the baby piglets that are born and their testicles pulled off and their tails cut off with no pain relievers. These animals feel pain and they know what is going on. Man should not treat them like garbage. Thank heavens for ALDF!!

  53. Gloria Hovde says:

    Stop eating meat!

  54. trish says:

    unreal. sick. demonic. you think this is bad, look at those farmers should feel everything they gave to those pigs. despicable creatures, these males. they are not men and they are not human.

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