No Pasture Here. Only Pain.
“They were representing themselves as a natural, pasture-raised option.”
While the farmer’s website used “buzz words” like free range and pasture-raised, those often have little meaning. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, free range simply means that the producers must show that the birds were allowed access to the outside, with no requirements on the duration or conditions. – Times-Call (Longmont, CO), Jan. 14, 2019.
Dear United Poultry Concerns,
I’m on the ground in Colorado rescuing birds from this bankrupt factory farm. We have saved over 500, and while so many are left behind, each one saved is a victory, a tiny universe unto themselves. Here are some photos of the lucky ones and the ones who couldn’t be saved. – January 3, 2019
The last thing any sane person wants to do is spend New Year’s Eve on a factory farm witnessing an overwhelming number of suffering, starved beings—but that is precisely how fellow activists and I rang in the New Year.
I was forwarded an email at the end of December that mentioned that BeeBee Farms, a chicken farm in La Salle, Colorado (allegedly the largest producer in the state) had gone bankrupt. The details were scant, but apparently the farm was running out of food to feed the birds as well as propane to heat their barns. There wasn’t even an ability to send the birds to slaughter. The situation sounded nightmarish.
It also sounded like an opportunity to save lives.
Friends and I mobilized a team of rescuers. Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary in Erie, Colorado stepped up when others couldn’t: agreeing to do whatever they could to ensure the rescue happened. I finally was able to speak to the owner and manager of the farm who was supportive of us taking birds. Plane tickets were purchased. Rescue vehicles were rented. Transport carriers were borrowed. Medical supplies were gathered. We began to look for good, loving (and vegan) homes for the chickens.
Within 48 hours, on New Year’s Eve, a handful of us were standing inside one of the sheds: overwhelmed with the stench of ammonia, feces, decomposing bodies and suffering—sifting through thousands of hungry, cold chickens trying to save the ones we could. Picking up one, two, sometimes three chickens at a time and taking them out to safety.
In the sheds, starving birds were pecking feebly at the rotting corpses of their deceased fellows. Birds too sick or injured to move littered the floor. Birds beyond hungry and dehydrated were injuring one another in frustration and desperation. One bird I saw had no eyes—soon disappearing into the mass of other sick and suffering souls. Another bird had a gaping wound the size of a softball, then another with the same injury, then another. Two birds I thought were dead moved slightly when I walked past them—sunk inches deep into mud and feces—they were actually still fighting to live. Frustration, hunger, pain, illness were everywhere. I recalled this farm was labeled “natural” and “pasture-raised.” Yet there was no nature or pasture here. Only pain.
Soon men working for the farm were in the shed with us. They were decapitating live birds. Moving through the terrified birds like a storm of destruction: leaving only chicken heads in their path. Despite the violence happening around us, we continued working to save who we could. Them killing, us saving.
I kept thinking of the saying, “Whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world,” as I picked up each broken bird. Each bird we saved was a victory of sorts, and that reality grounded me in not succumbing to feelings of impotence and anger.
Valentine had several large gaping and infected wounds all over her body when we rescued her. She would need several weeks of systemic antibiotics, pain medications and wound cleaning to heal.
At rescue, Lucene had a compound fracture in her wing, the bone tip piercing through her skin: already black and necrotic and stinking of infection. She would need to be hospitalized for nearly a week to be stabilized, and eventually would need the broken wing amputated to save her life.
When we rescued Winter, his eyes were swollen shut from infection and his toes were blueish and painful—a victim of frostbite. He would eventually lose most of his toes on one foot on top of dealing with a respiratory infection that ravaged him for over a week immediately after rescue. Antibiotics, pain medications and foot soaks saved his life.
When it was all over, our small team had saved 610 birds. It has taken weeks to care for, medically treat, transport and adopt out these now beloved birds.
Approximately 36,000 other birds perished on this single farm during this single event. We will not forget them as we each find our own ways to tell their stories in hopes of convincing people to forever put down the wings and drumsticks and choose vegan.
– PJ McKosky, Feb. 11, 2019