17 min read

Turlock Hens, Bird-Flu Killings, Chick Hatchery Disruption, National Animal Rights Day

By Karen Davis, PhD State vet: High death loss not part of forced molting practice
- Turlock Journal "Food deprivation to force a molt causes severe immune
system dysfunction resulting in death and disease in the hens."
– Karen Davis quoted in the Turlock Journal June 2, 2015 The Turlock Hens
Poultry Press article: Beautiful Hens Fly Home to United Poultry Concerns!

Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary were able to rescue approximately 5,000 birds out of the 50,000 hens abandoned at A & L Poultry in February 2012. Photo: Turlock Journal A hearing got underway in Stanislaus County, California last week to determine whether a chicken cruelty case should go to trial. At issue is whether the owner and manager of A&L; Poultry in Turlock, California purposely deprived 50,000 hens of food to force them to molt their feathers and temporarily stop laying eggs, or whether the hens were simply abandoned and not fed.

If the hens were being force-molted – the industry practice of depriving hens of food for 4 to 14 days to manipulate egg production, linking the hens' biology to market prices – then owner Andy Cheung and manager Lien Diep would not be guilty of animal cruelty under the law, since starving hens to "rejuvenate" their exhausted ovaries is a standard egg industry practice.

Similarly, if the hens were not fed for several days because they were going to slaughterhouses and gas chambers as "spent" hens – this too is a standard industry practice and therefore legal.

But if Cheung and Diep can be shown to have abandoned their hens, simply leaving them to starve and dehydrate in their cages, for this they could be prosecuted for animal cruelty if the court decides to take them to trial.

Remember the unprecedented rescue led by Animal Place in 2012 of 5,000 hens of whom 3,000 were flown from California to New York to live in sanctuaries? – We adopted fifty of those hens that year, and though some have died since then, many are still thriving in our sanctuary yard – these were the "Turlock hens." Watch the video:

TURLOCK - The Documentary

As recounted in the Turlock Journal's coverage of the hearing, on February 21, 2012, Stanislaus County Animal Control Services responded to a complaint which led them to discover "thousands of dead hens in cages with hens that were starving." More than 20,000 hens were found dead of starvation or "drowned in the manure pits under the cages" in a "soupy" mixture of urine and feces (Turlock Journal May 28; June 2, 2015).

25,000 more hens were "euthanized" with carbon dioxide over a period of three days after being discovered. The decision not to feed the hens who were still alive "was made because many of them were in organ failure and to feed them might have caused more pain and potential disease outbreaks," a state veterinarian explained.

"Euthanizing" Poultry Flocks Mounds and mounds of carcasses piled up in vast barns . . .
disposal of vast numbers of flocks . . .
workers wearing masks and protective gear . . .
burying dead birds in hurriedly dug trenches . . .
officials weighing using landfills and mobile incinerators . . .
barns housing up to half a million birds in cages stacked to the rafters.

Egg Farms Hit Hard as Bird Flu Affects Millions of Hens,
- The New York Times, May 14, 2015.

Reading about the Turlock hens, I'm also thinking about the 33 million chickens, turkeys and ducks who have been exterminated thus far with firefighting foam and carbon dioxide in Midwestern states since December, in response to the avian influenza epidemic. Once more I am struck – stricken – by the stupendous brutality of the poultry and egg industries, and to cite one element of the news media coverage, I draw your attention to the industry term "euthanize" that reporters now regularly use without quotation marks (without irony), to describe – no, disguise – the killings.

In a letter to The New York Times that was not published, in response to "Egg Farms Hit Hard as Bird Flu Affects Millions of Hens," May 14, 2015, I objected to the reporter's use of the term euthanasia to describe the killing of millions of birds with carbon dioxide and firefighting foam. Euthanasia means "a good death." It means a death that is merciful, peaceful, kind, compassionate, and humane.

However, the birds are ignored by the mainstream press. Instead it's all about farmers – "forced to euthanize their own live inventory" – and the price of eggs. The New York Times reports that "consumers are probably seeing some price increases, not only for cartons of eggs but also for products that contain so-called liquid eggs, which are used in everything from mayonnaise to cake mixes and are a major product of Iowa's poultry industry. About 90 percent of the more than 25 million chickens that are being destroyed in Iowa produced liquid eggs."

Five years ago, on July 11, 2010, a New York Times editorial, A Humane Egg, applauded the signing into law of Proposition Two in California, promoted as a ban on cages for egg-laying hens in California. This turned out not to be so; moreover, the law excludes all hens whose eggs are destined for the liquid egg trade, which is a huge part of the egg industry involving many millions of hens. Proclaiming that the new law would "at least relieve the worst of the production horrors that are common in the industry now," the editorial concluded that "Industrial confinement is cruel and senseless and will turn out to be, we hope, a relatively short-lived anomaly in modern farming."

Industrial animal production is cruel, absolutely, but "senseless"? Not if the goal is to produce an unlimited supply of animal products around the clock. To hope that industrial confinement is a "relatively short-lived anomaly in modern farming" is like hoping that the Earthly Paradise is around the corner while you are in the process of blowing up a building full of people.

Eternal Treblinka The May 14 New York Times article about the avian flu situation in Iowa provides a much better snapshot of reality than its editorial view of "A Humane Egg":

"Still, as farmers and their employees double down on biosecurity measures at the big farms and work to clean the vast barns for new flocks, local businessmen return nearly every weekday morning to their favorite breakfast spot to trade theories on why bird flu keeps spreading."

The way these men casually kill millions of birds and enjoy their breakfast (I'm sure there's a holocaust on their plates) reminds me of Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka, of which I wrote in my review of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust.

Patterson shows how human concentration and killing centers are virtually identical to farmed animal concentration and killing centers. Tubes into which cows and pigs are driven single-file to their deaths are no different from the tubes at Treblinka and elsewhere that led from the disrobing rooms to the gas chambers, down which naked people were driven by guards using their fists, whips, and rifle butts-which is how we treat millions of farmed animals every day. The SS called its tube leading to the death center the "Road to Heaven," but, Patterson asks, how does their mockery differ from meat industry scientist, Temple Grandin, who calls the tube she designed for driving cattle to their death the "Stairway to Heaven"?

Some will say that treating creatures badly in order to eat them is a far cry from treating creatures badly simply because you hate them, but a key point of Eternal Treblinka is that the psychology of contempt for "inferior life" links the Nazi mentality to that which allows us to torture and kill billions of nonhuman animals and human beings with no more concern for them and their suffering than Hannibal Lecter and Jame Gumb feel for their victims apart from the pleasure they derive from the taste of their victims' pain in The Silence of the Lambs. That book says that the plight of the lambs screaming in the slaughterhouses--the whole human enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and murder-"will not end, ever."

Eternal Treblinka reminds us of all those other slaughterhouses that were running alongside the human ones-the "[a]round-the-clock killing and butchering" conducted at Treblinka, Auschwitz, in Dresden, and elsewhere. In their diaries and letters, Nazi officials dwell on their meals. One writes to his wife: "The sight of the dead-including women and children-is not very cheering. Once the cold weather sets in you'll be getting a goose now and again. There are over 200 chattering around here, as well as cows, calves, pigs, hens and turkeys. We live like princes. Today, Sunday, we had roast goose (1/4 each). This evening we are having pigeon."

National Animal Rights Day On May 31 and June 7, the 5th annual NATIONAL ANIMAL RIGHTS DAY was celebrated in cities around the world. With each person holding an animal who died alone and afraid in a horrible place, activists gather on this day to bear silent witness to all the animals who have suffered at the hands of human beings while pledging to fight for animals and animals' rights.

"This silent vigil was the most moving and profound statement of solidarity for animals that I have ever witnessed. Silent, Solemn, Powerful. So glad I was there."
-SUSAN KALEV, National Animal Rights Day in New York City, June 7, 2015.

Chick Hatchery Disruption "We challenge the existing order."
–Israeli activist Newborn male chickens are thrown into plastic trash bags or ground up alive at the hatchery. These are standard egg industry practices throughout the world.

Yesterday (June 7) Susan Kalev shared this video of Activists storming a chick hatchery in Israel. She gave us permission to share her thoughts:

"AMAZING VIDEO of Israeli animal activists storming a factory farm and stopping the machine that grinds day-old male chicks to death. Very brave, NOT graphic, listen to the woman TAL challenging the Israeli cop to stop her. I must say it brings me to tears to see how much we have to FIGHT to stop the killing."