Chicken Coop Film Used Against Director

ByABC News
May 10, 2006, 5:04 PM

May 10, 2006 — -- Adam Durand is a graphic designer and animal rights activist who is now best known as the unlikely director of the most controversial video around Rochester, N.Y.

Durand and two women planned to sneak into a gigantic egg farm, owned by Wegman's, a Rochester grocery chain, to document what they believed to be the poor conditions inside.

Durand said it was a cold, rainy night when they crawled through a hole in a wire fence. Durand said they knew that what they were doing was illegal.

"At the time, we weren't thinking about the legal consequences. We were just concerned about getting the best footage we could ... there's no other way to show people what happens," he said.

That night and two other nights later, Durand taped the conditions while the women described what they saw.

"We had no idea what to expect," Durand said. "We were blown away."

The disturbing images Durand shot include a chicken with its head caught between bars and another trapped in a pile of manure.

Durand said their intention was only to document, not to destroy property. They ended up finding what they thought were sickly hens trapped in manure pits below the egg-laying house.

"We just couldn't leave them behind, so yes, we brought hens out of the facility," Durand said.

Durand made the tape into a film, convinced that when the world saw what he shot, there would be action and that the supermarket chain would be punished for the way it raised its hens. He was thrilled when his work, called "Wegman's Cruelty," was shown at a local theater.

The footage did indeed lead to a prosecution -- not of Wegman's but of Durand.

Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy said that while the images Durand shot may be distasteful, a few injured hens out of close to a million at the farm did not prove negligence or provide any reason to charge Wegman's with a crime.