A Chance To Live
By Alyssa Berman
Recently, with the holidays and all of their implications looming, we set out on a mission to save a life, and in the end saved two. Though they weren’t human, or furry and four legged, they mattered just as much to us. We found them in a filthy pen inside a live poultry market, crammed tightly in with thousands of others like them; their waste covering the cement floor, the rank smell of ammonia filling the air, mixed with the distinct and overpowering feeling of fear. As we waited, several of their friends were chosen: grabbed by their legs and carted upside down to the back room to have their throats slit. Then, the same rough handling for them as they cowered in fear, only they were shoved inside of a cardboard box and handed to us. They were the lucky ones, and we ran out of there with them and away from the horrors.
They eyed us with a resigned trepidation as we lifted the lid of the box, too terrified to move until our hands came towards them and they fought us for their lives. No human had ever shown them a drop of mercy, so why wouldn’t they fear us? We put them in a warm, clean space with plenty of food and water, but they didn’t move all night and into the morning, until thirst and hunger finally coaxed them out of their box for a 2am feast.
That day we carried the cage out into the yard, for what was undoubtedly their first glimpse of the outdoors, and opened the cage door. They were mesmerized by the sky and the trees, the sounds of birds chirping and leaves crunching. They took their first hesitant steps out of the cage, feeling grass on their feet for the first time. They spent the rest of the day exploring around the yard side-by-side; scratching in the dirt, romping through the leaves, pecking at tasty treats in the grass, and later, settling down next to us and eating out of our hands.
In the end the horrors that brought them into this world will win. Regardless of whether they were to be slaughtered or not, they were born with a death sentence: genetic manipulation will cause them to grow so large so fast that their legs will give out within the next year.Over a period of two and a half days, we learned their individual personalities as they became more confident, gave them fitting names (Cheryl and Wanda), and earned a bit more of their trust; these once horribly mistreated, disrespected creatures, brought into this world for the sole purpose of having a violent end, finally gaining their dignity. And then they left us, their time with us only a short stopover before going on to their permanent home at a farm sanctuary, where they will live out their lives in peaceful chicken bliss and hopefully forget all about their horrific past.
In the end the horrors that brought them into this world will win. Regardless of whether they were to be slaughtered or not, they were born with a death sentence: genetic manipulation will cause them to grow so large so fast that their legs will give out within the next year, and the merciful sanctuary owner will euthanize them before they can become infested with maggots. But for now those two precious souls are happy hens, safe from the violence that once awaited them.
Rescuing victims of the meat, dairy and egg industries is key in the animal rights movement, and just as important as saving that animal’s life is documenting the horrors he/she is being removed from. The footage can be a powerful tool in awakening non-vegans to the reality of their meal choices. Activists around the world, from Israel to Brazil to California are rescuing nonhuman victims using a few different rescue methods.
Open rescue refers to the openness of the activists in the footage, in which they show their faces openly and do not try to hide their identities. This method has become more well known among activists since Direct Action Everywhere released their open rescue footage of an extremely sick hen they named Mei from one of Whole Foods “humane” egg suppliers in Northern California gaining national attention.
On the more “extreme” side (according to the government and big ag) of rescue is the Animal Liberation Front, who seek to destroy property that is used to confine, mutilate or otherwise aid in keeping animals in exploitative situations and remove the victims. The ALF typically leave behind a trademark symbol of their presence, and the FBI considers them to be “domestic terrorists” because they often aim to cause so much financial damage that the business is forced to close. ALF members in Sao Paolo, Brazil broke into an animal testing lab and freed almost 200 beagles while news anchors reported live. A month later they returned for the rats and mice who had been left behind and destroyed the computers and research equipment. According to reports, the company shut down its Sao Paolo laboratory soon after.
Fitting somewhere in between the two, a group of activists recently entered into a hatchery in Israel during working hours and surrounded the macerator used to grind up live male chicks, shutting it down. They were soon dragged out by police, but not before they managed to rescue hundreds of chicks. Footage from inside the hatchery is jarring, even for the most seasoned in the animal rights movement.
While our rescue mission was amateur and didn’t compare to any of these rescue types, two lives were spared, and to those hens nothing in the world matters more. Cheryl and Wanda (as we named them) reside at Barnyard Sanctuary in Columbia, NJ.