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But for 9 billion others, their life is pain, their death the same
At first, of course, I thought it was dead.
On Monday, Feb. 10, I’d pulled up at a red light at the corner of Main and Broad when I saw two people scrambling to lift a chicken out of the road. As this was right across from the Pilgrim’s Pride plant, I assumed it was another casualty of the trucks bringing untold numbers of birds to their deaths at the plant. Some of them never make it there, thrown from the trucks to be run over on the interstate or the roads.
But then I noticed the two people were not acting as though they were retrieving roadkill. I pulled into a corner lot and got out. They were huddled at the woman’s car trunk. I went over and peered in. The chicken was clearly alive and pretty clearly, miraculously, uninjured. The two Good Samaritans, though, were at a crossroads.
The man, wearing gloves, had lifted the chicken out of the street but obviously needed to move on. The woman, distraught, kept saying, “I yelled at the driver. Chickens were flying out of his truck, but he just kept driving.”
She was torn between wanting to continue to help and her other obligations. “I have to get to work,” she kept repeating.
So there was only one thing to be done. “Let’s put it in my hatchback,” I said. “I’ll take it to Crabtree Farms. They’ve rescued at least one before.”
I knew this because a couple of years ago, The Pulse ran what in my opinion is one of the best stories we’ve ever had, Jim Pfitzer’s account of another rescued Pilgrim’s Pride chicken and the heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of its life at Crabtree.
The chicken did not try to get out of the hatchback. It hunkered down in a corner, shocked but alive. “Hang in there,” I said, as I took off.
My phone call reached Anna at Crabtree and she told me, “We can’t take it.” My heart sank. “But I think we can find a home for it,” she added. “I’ll ask Andrea and call you back.”
And they did. A home had been found and if I just brought it over, they would hand it off to someone who kept backyard chickens. Driving to Crabtree, I heard scratching from the back of the car. “Don’t worry,” I kept saying aloud over and over, as silly as I knew that was. “You’ll be safe soon.”
Crabtree Farms in the winter is quiet, dormant, waiting for the spring. The urban farm, a Chattanooga treasure off Rossville Blvd. and 30th St., is humming with plantings and programs during all other seasons. But Anna and Andrea were the only ones there on this day. I opened the hatchback. Andrea looked in and picked the chicken up. It squawked and scrabbled. She—for it was a she—was a fighter. “This is the healthiest one I’ve seen,” Andrea said. “Thank you, thank you for being willing to help,” I said about 10 times. Then I drove off.
Several days later, I emailed Andrea, partly dreading what I might hear. Had the chicken survived? Had she succumbed to the shock of what she had endured? The answering email: “We’ve been told she’s doing very well, although the other chickens in her new sisterhood are apparently shunning her. That’s completely natural—she probably looks very strange to them right now, but over time she’ll become the biggest one of them! We’ll keep you updated on her progress.”
Not so coincidentally, I received an email from the ASPCA with the following facts about factory-farmed chickens, right around the same time:
"99 percent of the chickens we eat are bred to be sick—whether from grocery stores, restaurants, fast-food chains, even ‘organic’ chicken.
Chickens are fed antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease—in 2010, 51 percent of retail chicken breasts tested by the FDA were contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria, which have been shown to transfer from farm animals to people.
Most chickens, because they are so abnormally large, spend their lives lying in their waste, causing open sores.
Chickens grow so fat so fast that they can't support their own weight or walk without pain, they can hardly breathe, and many die of heart failure.
The chicken industry is making money while putting you and your family at risk and subjecting 9 billion animals a year to needless suffering—and everything they’re doing is legal.”
Thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s still just a stupid chicken?” Try this train of thought: “It’s just a stupid chicken.” “It’s just a stupid veal calf.” “It’s just a stupid dog.” “It’s just a stupid horse.” “It’s just some stupid people in some country I’ve never heard of.” “It’s just a stupid homeless person.” “It’s just…me.”
Want to help make change for factory-farmed animals? Join the ASPCA or the Humane Society and ask that they investigate inhumane transport of live animals. Demand your elected representatives vote for bills that protect animals and against ones that don’t (with no thanks to local federal elected officials, the King amendment was stripped out of the recently passed Farm Bill: see “Now You See It…Or Maybe You Don’t”, The Pulse, Sept. 12, 2013). And please, make a donation to Crabtree Farms, crabtreefarms.org. They care. Do you?