Meet 39 lucky chickens who were saved from certain death! Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the meat industry, thousands of animals have been culled.

Shawn Camp, founder and executive director of Iowa Farm Sanctuary, is one of a number of groups currently saving animals from farming operations shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Plummeting demand for meat due to shuttered restaurants, schools and hotels, and closures, or slowing of slaughterhouses due to workers falling ill, have left many farmers across North America with a surplus of animals. As a result, millions of animals are being brutally culled on farms. But thanks to the efforts of Iowa Farm Sanctuary, 39 little lives have now been spared.

When Camp saw a post making the rounds on Facebook, about a farmer in Iowa giving away chickens, she immediately gathered a team and sprang into action. She reached out to the farmer, who agreed to release some of the animals. She then put out a call for dog and cat crates to help transport the rescued hens. Donated crates quickly came in, and by the next morning, Camp and her team were on the road, along with another group, Michigan-based, Barn Sanctuary.

“As fast as one bird could be saved, workers were “loading them up by the dozen to be killed. So it was really a race against time to get as many as we could.”

Upon arrival at the farm, about three hours north of Iowa Farm Sanctuary, it was discovered that the farmer had over 140,000 chickens. As rescuers were actively pulling one bird at a time, says Camp, “there were employees pulling hundreds of birds and putting them into small gas chambers.” As fast as one bird could be saved, she describes, workers were “loading them up by the dozen to be killed. So it was really a race against time to get as many as we could.”

‘We had some issues with them instinctually doing what is called clumping. They’ve lived confined for so long, they only know to stand on top of each other.’ Though considered humane by the egg industry, “when they go into these CO boxes,” says Camp, “they can be heard fighting for their lives. It’s not like they just sit in there and fall asleep.”

Though Camp wishes she could have saved hundreds of hens, the group only had homes and transport for a certain amount: 38, with one extra sneaking in, “a nice surprise,” she chuckles. Since that day though, there has been a growing effort among partner sanctuaries and donors, leading to more rescues and thousands of birds being saved.

“With the COVID crisis, processing plants are closing or are at their minimum capacity,” explains Camp, and so the hens on this particular farm, who were nearing the end their ability to produce eggs, had no place to be slaughtered, “for cheap chicken soup,” she says. “So rather than letting them starve, they just began gassing them.”

As for the lucky 39 rescued by Camp: “Most are doing really well,” she says. “The first couple of days we had some issues with them instinctually doing what is called clumping. They’ve lived confined for so long, they only know to stand on top of each other.” After separating them into spaces more conducive to healthy spreading, she says, “they are doing so much better. Most are eating and drinking on their own, getting electrolytes in their water, their colour is coming back to their combs, and they are standing, which is remarkable given they had never had enough room to actually stand up before.”

“The first couple of days we had some issues with them instinctually doing what is called clumping. They’ve lived confined for so long, they only know to stand on top of each other.”

For a few of the hens though, “their hormones get so out of whack from producing such an unnatural amount of eggs,” she says, “and being [genetically] modified so much to do so, that their combs have grown really out of control; a couple of them can’t even hold their heads up.” Soon those hens will get the veterinary treatment they need to live comfortably, including hormonal implants; treatment they would have likely never received on the farm.

Rescued hens in transport.

For 11 of the 39 rescued chickens, Iowa Farm Sanctuary will be their forever home. The rest will go to other homes and sanctuaries, where they will be permitted to live out their lives free from exploitation and slaughter.

“We try to be as cautious as possible when these birds are rescued, that they don’t continue the course of exploitation,” says Camp. “We are pretty explicit about working with sanctuaries that we know have a vegan mission.” And so, this group of fortunate, rescued hens, she says, “will effectively go into retirement,” exactly as they deserve.

Original source: https://medium.com

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