What would you do if you could no longer afford to feed your dog? It would be tragic, though most thoughtful people would try to find someone else who could care for the dog, or contact the local humane society for help.
Earlier this week a call came in to Stanislaus Animal Services Agency in California reporting that a chicken farmer, no longer able to afford to care for the animals, had abandoned his chickens. We’re not talking about a few birds. He left 50,000 birds in cages without food and water for more than two weeks. Animal services told the Turlock Journal that about 15,000 chickens were found dead in their cages by the time they got there.
As soon as news of the abused birds hit the wire, animal protection groups jumped to their rescue. Harvest Home Sanctuary arrived as soon as they got news of the abandoned birds to start pulling surviving hens from their cages. Over the course of the last two days, volunteers have worked around the clock to rescue chickens who, having not eaten or had water for weeks, were on the verge of death. Some birds had fallen into the liquid manure pit where they were slowly dying.
In all, close to 5,000 birds were pulled out of their cramped cages by Harvest Home, Animal Place, and Farm Sanctuary. And although the birds are in caring hands, they’re not in the clear yet. Many are still suffering from dehydration, crippling leg disorders, and other ailments as a result of not only their abandonment, but their cage confinement in general.
The story is shocking and tragic, but it’s not the first time this has happened. The problem is not just neglectful owners who shun their responsibilities. The problem is looking at animals not as living, sentient beings, but rather a production unit to be abandoned when times get tough. Each and every one of those chickens who perished on the farms was a life, who in an ideal setting would feel the sun on her back; who in an ideal setting would lay her eggs to later raise chicks and teach them how to search for insects, to scratch around, and how to avoid danger. And who would flap around in the dust, soaking up the sun and the fresh air.
Those birds never stood a chance. They never had a moment of sunshine but spent their entire short, miserable lives in a dark, ammonia-filled warehouse where their lives were wrought with suffering. The surviving birds now have a chance to live more natural lives.
I’m grateful for those individuals who spent the last two days working around the clock to bring them to safety. And for those birds who perished, I can only take comfort in hoping that more people will recognize that by supporting industrial animal agribusiness, by eating milk, eggs and dairy, they are supporting an industry whose members walk away from tens of thousands of animals and allow them to die rather than picking up the phone and asking for help.
Rescuing animals and nursing them to help is a costly venture. Please consider making a donation to Harvest Home, Animal Place, and Farm Sanctuary.