I spent a lot of time baking this weekend. There was a vegan bake sale Saturday to benefit Harvest Home, a sanctuary in Stockton, California that provides refuge to homeless and abused domestic and farmed animals. I baked some lemon scones, which ended up so freakishly large that I decided to eat them myself and start over. Next I made some blueberry-lemon muffins, which I’m told sold out—and for a great cause.
Harvest Home rescues animals and when possible carefully adopts them into permanent loving homes. Some require special lifelong expert care which Harvest Home provides to more than 175 animals representing ten species. Their focus is on poultry and rabbits.
A few years ago I helped transport some “spent” battery hens to Harvest Home. Spent hens are those who are no longer producing enough eggs to be considered useful to keep. After being confined in cages for 12-18 months, laying about 260 eggs a year, hens become weak and their bodies become debilitated. Hens at the turn of the century laid about 100 eggs per year. Modern egg laying hens are genetically bred to lay more eggs than ever before, but this takes a real toll on their bodies. Their bones become weak due to the depletion of calcium and the lack of exercise.
Many suffer from a disorder called cage layer fatigue where their bones become so brittle the birds collapse, some dying inches from their food because they’re unable to move to reach it. Typically at about two years old, a fraction of their natural lifespan, hens are killed on-site at the egg factory farms or transported to slaughter.
Fortunately for some lucky hens, Harvest Home helps them live out their days in a peaceful environment looked after by people who care deeply about them. To see these animals–who have been caged their whole lives–take their first steps on solid ground, is at once remarkably uplifting and utterly sad.
This vegan bake sale had a double impact: to demonstrate to the public that we don’t need to use eggs to make delicious treats, and to help provide direct care to dozens of laying hens, rabbits, goats, dogs, ducks, pigs, turkeys and other residents. Some wonderful volunteers are running a race to raise money for Harvest Home. You can donate online here to support their good work.