Pete and Gerry's Organics

Jesse Laflamme poses in 2017 with some of the hens that have helped make Pete and Gerry's Organics in Monroe a leading producer of organic and cage-free eggs in the U.S.

MONROE — Calling it “without merit” and a “stunt,” Jesse Laflamme, CEO of Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, said he will vigorously fight a class-action lawsuit supported by the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which alleges the company does not treat its laying hens as well as advertised.

The lawsuit was brought March 9 in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York by four Empire State residents who said in court documents they had purchased Pete and Gerry’s eggs largely on the company’s promotion of the humane treatment of its hens.

After saying they learned that the claim was not true, the four plaintiffs, whose counsel is a PETA Foundation attorney, filed suit asking that Pete and Gerry’s be permanently prohibited from using the words and phrases “love,” “kindness,” “better lives,” “green grass,” or “freedom for hens to roam where they please….” on its packaging. The lawsuit also seeks “punitive damages.”

On Wednesday, Laflamme said the lawsuit was an insult and that once the company retains an attorney in New York, it will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“To be candid, I, we, are angered by this. We strive to do the right things and we’re recognized as leaders” in the humane treatment of animals, said Laflamme.

In 2003, Pete and Gerry’s became the first certified humane egg producer in the U.S. and a decade later it was the first egg producer in the world to achieve certified “benefit corporation” status. As a “b corp,” Pete and Gerry’s agrees to have its operations audited biennially for sustainable business practices and social and environmental performance.

Headquartered on Buffum Road in Monroe, Pete and Gerry’s works with 130 family farms throughout the country.

Laflamme said PETA’s lawsuit is misguided, targeting a company that is on “the cutting edge of animal welfare,” instead of the mass egg-producing companies, which control 80 percent of the U.S. market and which think nothing of putting up to nine hens together in a metal cage about the size “of a microwave.”