As the chief executive of Wiesenhof, Germany’s largest poultry producer, Peter Wesjohann is proud of his company’s financial performance and its ongoing efforts to be more hygienic and humane in its treatment of animals.
But the secretive firm, part of the PHW Group, has been hit by several scandals accusing it of mistreating and abusing poultry. Mr. Wesjohann, the third generation of his family to lead the company, is still a target for animal rights activists and receives plenty of hate mail.
He discussed the future in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Visbeck, north-west Germany.
Handelsblatt: When was the last time you were threatened?
Peter Wesjohann: Menacing letters have become an everyday occurrence. It’s almost routine when a group of animal-rights advocates blocks our entrance, as happened again a few days ago.
Many meat barons prefer to keep a low profile because of public indignation. . .
. . . for which I have a certain understanding. I, too, have received mail that included a bullet. At that point, the fun and games are over, even for me. But, unfortunately, a severe and long-ignored process of alienation has developed between the food sector and the population. Agriculture has become heavily industrialized and customers no longer look at it so fondly. But the farming idyll in the picture books of our childhood was, in many aspects, not particularly desirable.