Judge Gives Green Light to Lawsuit Against Nellie’s Eggs

Court Finds That Egg Seller's Depictions of Hens in 'Elysian Pastures' Can Defraud Consumers

For Immediate Release:
February 24, 2020

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

New York – In a historic decision, a Southern District of New York federal court judge has established that a marketing campaign showing hens frolicking outdoors “provides enough specificity to elevate itself beyond puffery,” placing a target on the backs of sellers of so-called “free-range eggs” that keep hens in cramped conditions. The court rejected arguments made by Pete and Gerry’s Organics, the owner of Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, in a motion to dismiss. PETA Foundation lawyers had filed the lawsuit on behalf of several consumers based in New York City and Nassau County who are upset at being misled into buying eggs sold alongside false depictions of what the court described as “hens frolicking in elysian pastures.” PETA considers this kind of advertising on egg cartons to be “humane washing.”

The consumer lawsuit details how Nellie’s cartons depict hens enjoying vast, lush, grassy fields and tell consumers, “Our hens can peck, perch, and play on plenty of green grass.” This description contrasts drastically with PETA eyewitness video footage of a Nellie’s egg supplier showing that some 20,000 hens were crammed into a single crowded shed with severely restricted access to the outdoors, which they could reach only by fighting their way to hatchways that were only occasionally open. This is next to impossible for many when they’re housed at this volume. The hens had just 1.2 square feet of floor space each, which is barely larger than their bodies.

“These shoppers were appalled to discover that hens on ‘free-range’ egg farms spend their lives not on grass but in jam-packed sheds—a miserable existence,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “The only truly cruelty-free label is ‘vegan,’ and PETA looks forward to seeing egg sellers stopped from duping shoppers with false promises of free birds on idyllic hillsides. All U.S. egg sellers are on notice: They can’t deceive customers this way without exposing themselves to potential false-advertising claims.”

PETA has released a reaction video in which Whole Foods shoppers who’d bought Nellie’s eggs watched PETA’s eyewitness video footage. The viewers responded by saying that they felt “betrayed” and that the company’s marketing claims were “false advertising,” “really deceptive,” “really f*cked up,” “disgusting,” and “another big lie.”

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are also represented by Jeanne M. Christensen and Julia L. Elmaleh-Sachs, attorneys at Wigdor LLP, a New York–based law firm that has won landmark victories for victims of false advertising, racial and gender-based discrimination, and harassment.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind