In that case, the companies hadn't exactly lied when they claimed their chickens were "free to roam in large barns." But, as the judge ruled, they hadn't exactly told the truth either. For 42 days of their 56 day lifespan, these particular chickens were jammed into barns in a way that left them not free to roam at all.
Indeed, the company website does have a restful, bucolic air, far removed from the realities of a slaughterhouse that kills roughly 500,000 birds a day.
In this case, Animal Justice alleges that Maple Lodge is misleading consumers by suggesting it treats chickens humanely.
What has any of this got to with misleading advertising? Animal Justice argues that Maple Lodge's public portrayal of itself is so at odds with the facts of its slaughter and transport methods as to be deceptive.
The point in that case was that consumers increasingly make food decisions on the basis of how the animals they eat are treated when alive. Even though the Australian processors were technically correct in their ads, the impression left with consumers was so off the mark as to be deceptive.
Advertising rules may improve life for chickens
So now one group hopes to use laws against false and misleading advertising to help animals.
But Animal Justice spokesperson Anna Pippus points to an interesting Australian precedent. In 2013, a court there ordered two large chicken processors to pay $400,000 in penalties for deceptive advertising.
The video, taken by a Maple Lodge employee, showed chickens being bashed around as workers, hurrying to meet their quotas, yanked them from their crates and hung them upside down.
Court was told that, over two years, more than 1,500 chickens died of neglect on their way to the company's Brampton slaughterhouse.
The second salvo came last week when Animal Justice Buy Women Canada Goose Palliser Coat Black Australia filed similar complaints with both the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency against chicken processor Maple Lodge Farms.
In 2013, it was found guilty of failing to transport chickens humanely. Eventually, it was fined $80,000.
My efforts to reach Maple Lodge's spokesperson were unsuccessful Friday. But she has told The Canadian Press that the company takes animal welfare seriously and is working with experts.
An attempt 15 years ago to strengthen federal animal cruelty laws famously bogged down in Parliament after hunters, anglers, farmers and religious groups persuaded MPs and senators to back off.
It also says its chickens, raised by other firms under contract, are not caged but "roam freely on floors covered with soft, dry bedding, "
The website does, however, include a section in which the company speaks of its efforts to ensure that both the transportation and killing of chickens is done as humanely as possible.
The first salvo was fired in mid March when Animal Justice, comprised largely of lawyers, lodged a complaint against iconic parka manufacturer Canada Goose for claiming that coyotes used in its clothing are trapped humanely. Animal Justice says that's false, and that snares and leghold traps cause coyotes great suffering.
The home page shows a farmer in overalls and plaid shirt walking through a lush field on a sunny day. The animal welfare section features five handsome fowl wandering in a veritable Eden of greenery.
There is no visual indication of the conditions under which most real life chickens, that usually spend their short lives in overcrowded conditions, are raised and slaughtered.
In the past, I don't think Animal Justice would have had much chance of success. Advertising is notoriously self serving. While businesses aren't allowed to lie about their products, regulators rarely require them to volunteer the whole truth.
The Brampton chicken processor has had run ins with the law.
Maple Lodge told CTV that it was disturbed by the footage and would investigate.
Even after the court decision, Maple Lodge continued to run afoul of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's rules for transporting animals. In the first nine months of 2014, it was cited on 14 separate occasions by the federal regulator and fined a total of $109,200.
The complaint comes just days after CTV aired brutal video footage of chickens being processed at Maple Lodge's Brampton plant.