SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Tuesday it would boycott grocery store giant Safeway, claiming the supermarket chain has committed numerous acts of cruelty to farm animals.
PETA said it formally would announce the boycott during a news conference Wednesday in San Francisco near Safeway's headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif. The group also said it would show video footage of animal abuse on farms employed by Safeway.
Bruce Friedrich, PETA's senior campaign coordinator, said some footage will feature a farmer at Seaboard Farms in Guymon, Okla., beating and kicking pigs, slamming pigs into concrete floors and hitting the animals with metal hammers. Friedrich said the footage was obtained during a three-month undercover investigation conducted in early 2001.
Safeway, which own 17 meat and dairy plants and sells its own brand name products in its stores, buys meat, eggs and dairy products directly from farms such as Seaboard.
Friedrich said PETA is not trying to get Safeway to force major meat producers, such as Purdue which farms chicken, and Jimmy Dean which makes sausage, to meet basic animal welfare standards. Instead, PETA wants to see Safeway enforce animal standards at farms from which it makes purchases for its own brand name products.
"It makes no business sense and even less ethical sense for Safeway to show such disdain for how its animals are treated," Friedrich told United Press International. "We will certainly adversely affect their bottom line, their stock price and the public's view of them."
When asked for comment on PETA's actions, Brian Dowling, vice president of public affairs for Safeway, told UPI, "I don't know what PETA is trying to do." He added he would look into seeing whether the company had a response. Subsequent calls were not returned.
PETA said it contacted Safeway numerous times over the past 16 months, Friedrich added, and sent them a copy of the video. "And they ignored us," he said. The boycott also is to include Safeway's subsidiaries, Vons, Pavilions, Dominick's, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Genuardi's and Carrs.
Safeway also has been criticized by PETA for its animal confinement practices, such as keeping hens in cages so small and crowded they are unable to move, and breeding sows stuck in concrete stalls that keep them immobile for several months at a time.
Other corporate giants have been targeted by the animal welfare agency before. PETA campaigned against fast-food chains Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's and successfully pressured them to improve their animal welfare policies. It said it wants to see Safeway follow these restaurants' examples. Such standards include more humane slaughtering methods involving giving animals injections to make them insensitive to pain and also providing sufficient grounds that avoid overcrowding animals.
Safeway, one of the biggest supermarket chains in the country, operates about 1,750 stores nation wide, many of them in urban areas along the coasts, which Friedrich said are "hotbeds of animal activism."
Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society based in Washington, D.C., told UPI: "I think these types of campaigns will become increasingly common because of the magnitude of the suffering animals endure. These corporations, which purchase enormous amounts of meat and eggs can play a significant role in supporting farmers who don't use cruel confinement methods and who reject industrialized animal factories."
The Humane Society, which Pacelle said has not joined many boycotts in the past, has not decided whether to participate in the boycott against Safeway.
(reported by Katrina Woznicki in Washington, D.C.)