Escape from a Dinner Plate
October 5, 2009
By Jenny Brown
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