“Emperor of the World”

Veterinarians Told Owners to Throw Their Unwanted Hens into Wood Chippers
San Diego County Department of Animal Services Documents Veterinary Cruelty

Chipper 2
Photo By: San Diego County Department of Animal Services

Gregg Cutler, DVM
"On 2/20/03 Dr. Gregg Cutler told me he was overseeing the depopulation of the hens on the Ward egg ranch and their affiliate ranches in San Diego County. Cutler told me he authorized the use of the wood chipper to depopulate the spent hens on the egg ranches. When I asked Cutler if he thought it was a humane way to euthanize these animals by throwing them into the chipper alive, he responded, 'Absolutely.' I then asked him if he felt it was still humane if they were going in there bunches at a time, being plugged up in the shoot, not knowing if they were going into the shredder feet first, breast first, if he still considered that a humane death, and he said to me, 'Yes, of course. However they go in, it's quick, it's painless, and it's over in seconds.'

"I then asked him for his title, and he told me, 'Emperor of the World.' I was quiet for a second or two, and asked him if I could quote him on that. His voice sounded irritated, and then he told me, 'I'm a veterinarian. And an epidemiologist.' I asked him if he was in private practice, or where or who he worked with. He told me he was a Private Consultant and did work with the USDA."

– Patrol Supervisor Lt. Mary Kay Gagliardo, Affidavit, February 20, 2003

Doug Kuney, DVM
"On 2/20/03 Dr. Doug Kuney told me that he and Dr. Gregg Cutler, DVM, were overseeing the destruction of the old laying hens at the Ward egg ranch in Valley Center and its affiliate ranches in San Diego County. Kuney said Cutler authorized these ranches to dispose of these animals by means of the wood chipper. Kuney told me he thought the AVMA had approved of this method."

– Patrol Supervisor Lt. Mary Kay Gagliardo, Affidavit, February 20, 2003

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
"Dr. Cutler informed us that he has never recommended using a wood chipper or any other grinding machine to euthanize chickens."

– Bruce W. Little, DVM, Executive Vice President, AVMA, Letter to United Poultry Concerns, March 27, 2003

"The American Veterinary Medical Association has not endorsed the use of wood chippers as an acceptable means of euthanasia for poultry."

– Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM, Assistant Director of Communications, AVMA, Letter to United Poultry Concerns, May 8, 2003

On September 26, 2003, the San Diego County Department of Animal Services provided United Poultry Concerns with the investigation file we requested under the California Public Records Act regarding the Ward Egg Ranch's use of wood chippers - industrial tree shredders - to destroy tens of thousands of live hens at the company's three locations last February. The San Diego County District Attorney declined to prosecute ranch owners Arie and Bill Wilgenburg largely because this atrocity was done on the advice of two veterinarians, Drs. Gregg Cutler and Doug Kuney, and because a document on the handling of Exotic Newcastle Disease virus sent anonymously to the Department of Animal Services showed veterinary endorsement of wood chippers to grind "spent hens" alive:

  • A large chipper can be rented and set up to discharge directly into a loader bucket or other container.
  • Death is instant and humane.
  • The remains can then be dumped in a row on top of a generous bed of manure, and covered with a deep mound of manure.
Photo By: San Diego County Department of Animal Services

In a formal complaint to the CA Veterinary Medical Board on 9/2/03, the Dept. of Animal Services described how the hens died:

  • A combination of dead and live chickens was piled into the bucket of a front-end-loader tractor.
  • A hydraulic ram pushed the chickens toward a pair of large feed wheels.
  • The feed wheels crushed the chickens and fed them into a pulverizing device.
  • The pulverizing device destroyed the chickens by use of a large number of rapidly rotating metal hammers.

Neighbor Testifies. Michelle Sorge, a neighbor in Valley Center, told investigating officers that the noise from a tractor and an industrial-sized tree shredder "got her attention." As she stood on her patio, she and her son "had a clear and unobstructed view of the workers next door at the chicken ranch. The workers began to empty the chicken houses. . . . Workers would retrieve the hens on carts, take the carts to the shredder and toss or throw the live chickens into the shredder." She knew the hens were alive "because of their movements, noise and action as they were handled prior to being shredded."

What Can I Do?

Gregg Cutler, DVM, is the poultry representative on the AVMA's Animal Welfare Committee. In addition to advising "egg ranchers" to throw live adult hens into wood chipping machines, and then lying about it to the AVMA, Cutler supports depriving hens of food in the inhumane egg industry practice known as forced molting. According to Cutler, starving hens for profit is "a pro-welfare activity," and hens are force-molted (starved) "in a safe and humane way" (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, July 1, 2000).

Please urge the AVMA to remove Gregg Cutler, DVM, from the AVMA's Animal Welfare Committee. While the AVMA continues to support forced molting, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that forced molting is a severe animal welfare abuse and a major cause of Salmonella enteritidis in hens and their eggs, the AVMA does not support the use of wood chippers or tree shredders in its 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia. On page 672, the report defines euthanasia as "the act of inducing humane death in an animal," noting "It is our responsibility as veterinarians and human beings to ensure that if an animal's life is to be taken, it is done with the highest degree of respect." The report can be accessed at

Bruce Little, DVM, Executive Vice President
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360
Ph: 847-925-8070. Fax: 847-925-1329