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Escape from a Dinner Plate

October 5, 2009
By Jenny Brown
|12Comments|


There’s nothing like a rescue success story to kick off Meatless Monday! Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, is here to share Julia’s journey from factory farm to farm sanctuary…

Last Tuesday, we received an unexpected call from the ASPCA. As soon as I saw the Caller I.D., I knew there were animals in trouble.

An illegal Halal slaughterhouse in the Bronx was ordered to close its doors and the ASPCA, thankfully, was there to seize the animals. Over 100 so-called “live kill” markets are peppered throughout the NYC area, serving Halal and Kosher needs, as well as others who want to select their meat in living form. These places are so notoriously run that the NY State legislature recently voted to freeze any further licensing of new markets.

This doesn’t really stop illegal operations like this one, where chickens, guinea fowl, pigeons, quail and rabbits were found inside stacked in filthy wire cages. Most were covered in feces, some featherless, many with broken bones, infections and other injuries. As the humane law enforcement officers walked the aisles of cages, all the animals pressed themselves in the corners of their cages, fearful of being the next one pulled.

We agreed to take all the chickens at the sanctuary, knowing that we had the space to at least foster them and the experience to treat the sick ones. When the ASPCA officers arrived here after dark in 3 vans after a harrowing day at the market and hours stuck in traffic, mother nature provided the perfect punctuation mark: a heavy, miserable rain. We quickly got the birds into a large, warm coop and pulled the visibly sick and injured ones into our medical center.

The next morning we were able to take a better look. About 120 chickens in all, and a variety of different breeds were identified. Julia, pictured here, is one of a dozen “spent layers” that arrived– she was a hen used for eggs, and she’d just spent around 2 years in a battery cage crammed in with other hens, helping provide the nation with cheap and plentiful eggs…until her egg production dropped and her battered body was sold to the slaughterhouse for marketing as cheap “stew meat.”

At the egg factory her beak had been cauterized short to prevent potential pecking and her feathers were beaten off from contact with the wire cages and other hens. Nearly all egg-laying hens nationwide are confined in cages so restrictive that the birds can barely move, let alone engage in many other natural behaviors such as walking, perching and dust bathing. The consequences of this kind of containment was evident seeing her take her first steps in the morning dew. For the first few hours her strides were cartoonishly big, as she was quite literally re-learning how to walk for the first time in years. The unfamiliar sensation of grass and dirt underfoot defied any chicken logic she’d experienced in the factory world, almost like walking on the moon.

As even die-hard vegetarians who come to the sanctuary learn for the first time–it is the egg-laying hens and the milk-producing cows who bear the brunt of the very worst of factory farming. These females suffer more emotional and physical pain over a much longer period of time than their just-raised-for-meat counterparts–and in the end they too become cheap, processed meat.

In the meantime, Julia is enjoying her days scratching for bugs in the grass, stretching her wings and basking in the sun for the first time in her life. She is one of the few lucky ones: each day 24 million “spent” egg-laying hens are killed in the US alone.

Until their feathers grow back she spends her nights in a straw-filled spacious pen in our little hospital room with her other liberated sisters. We encourage you to visit her and our other rescued residents and join our efforts towards a more compassionate co-existence with the creatures with whom we share this earth. To read more about the lives of egg-layers and the overall impact of a meat & dairy based diet on the animals, the environment and your health go here. Oh yea, and to boycott this cruelty and live the most compassionate life you can live–Go Vegan! (please!)

“We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.” ~ William Ralph Inge, 1922



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12 responses to Escape from a Dinner Plate
  1. I live in the Bronx and hate seeing all these slaughterhouses. There is even one right next door to a day care center!! Thank you so much for all you do!

  2. This poor little chicken looks really rough and has obviously been through a lot. Thank you for telling her story and raising awareness. I am veg but trying to go vegan and stories like this remind me why.

  3. Oh my. what a story. I feel so sad for those poor animals. I am actually hosting my first vegan Thanksgiving this coming weekend (canadian thanksgiving)… the last time i prepared a chicken in March for a family celebration I felt positively ill… I was already vegan but since no-one else is, felt obliged to provide a “traditional dinner”. I told my husband it wouldn’t happen again, and he agreed. So he told his family “no bird this weekend” but since they all love my cruelty–free cooking, everyone seems okay with it. Even if they weren’t okay with it, I have to be true to my beliefs.

  4. Factory farms continue to thrive because people who care about themsleves, their friends and family, their community and country, which includes the majority of people, do not have votes that count or voices to be heard. Politic is the first and foremost problem facing the world today.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. I was so moved that I immediately posted it to my facebook page. I then received a comment from a friend questioning the figure of 24 million spent hens being slaughtered each day. He was thinking it must be an error, that maybe it was each week or month. I looked online to find verifying figures but only found the USDA 2000 report on total number of food animals killed. Is there a way of confirming the figure that I can pass on? Thank you!

  6. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all you do!!!

  7. United Poultry Concerns states that “Most chickens-about 35 million a day in the U.S.– are slaughtered at 6 to 7 weeks old and weigh 4 to 5 pounds” and from Viva USA –”Every day, 23 million chickens are killed in the U.S. for food–that’s 269 deaths per second!”A very recent Alternet article states “Chickens make up over 95 percent of all the animals slaughtered in the U.S. The sheer numbers killed are astounding. Over 9 billion chickens are slaughtered each year. That’s 24 million a day, 300 per second.” So, I wrong to say that it was specifically spent egg-layers that make up the 23 mil/day stat but I know they make up a large percentage of that figure because they are so plentiful for the egg industry but are killed at around 2 yrs of age. So there are variations in the stats as well.

  8. Thank you Jenny for providing the stats. I’m going to pass on this info.

  9. Ms. Brown, God has a special place in heaven for you. You are an angel on earth. Thank you for sharing your love with the precious animals. You are teaching us all a beautiful lesson by your actions and words. Thank you for the reminder to be compassionate.

  10. Wow, people are truely evil when it comes to animals. We have chickens and think of them as part of the family. Thanks for helping those poor creatures.

  11. I don’t think evil is wholey the problem. Mass ignorance allows our food to be produced this way, to the detriment of not only these poor animals, but also our own bodies. Most people are completely disconnected from their food. Its work like this that changes things. Thank you for bringing awareness.

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