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As Millions of Factory Farmed Animals Sent to Mass Slaughter, These 'Lucky 1,000' Chickens Rescued

"We must critically examine and dismantle the country's unsustainable and unethical meat production pipeline."

Hens rescued by Animal Place await transportation to the group's California facility.

Hens rescued by Animal Place await transportation to the group's California facility. (Photo: Kezia Jauron/Animal Place)

As reports continue to come out of the nation's meat processing industry's planned slaughter of millions of pigs and chickens due to labor and health concerns in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, animal rights groups are stepping up to rescue as many creatures as possible from mechanized death and calling for a post-coronavirus plant-based food future. 

"It is animal agriculture that is wrong, not simply the logistical phenomena that have caused mass culling," Harvard student Joseph Winters wrote Tuesday. "As we negotiate a return to normalcy, we must critically examine and dismantle the country's unsustainable and unethical meat production pipeline."

Activists with California animal rescue organization Animal Place on Saturday rescued a "lucky 1,000" hens from an Iowan egg farm planning to kill 100,000 chickens with carbon dioxide gas due to the continuing damage the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking on the nation's agricultural supply chain. The group drove 30 hours to get the animals, who were transported on two planes back to Animal Place's Grass Valley sanctuary. 

"The entire process, from the 27-hour drive, arriving at the farm at 3 am, loading and unloading full crates from the planes and vehicles, and going straight to caring for them once we arrived at the sanctuary was the most exhausting experience I've ever had," the group's animal care director Hannah Beins said in a statement.

Beins said the exhaustion was a price she was more than willing to pay to rescue the birds.

"I would do it again in a heartbeat," she said, "because until their rescue these hens never got to touch grass or feel the sunshine, and now they can live out the rest of their lives as chickens should."

The group's executive director Kim Sturla said that she was proud of Animal Place staff and supporters for stepping up but that the real fight against the meat industry would continue past the end of the pandemic.

"Unfortunately not even we can take in 100,000 hens," said Sturla, "which is a drop in the bucket of the hundreds of million hens killed annually by the egg industry, even in a typical year without a global pandemic."

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As Common Dreams reported at the end of April, the meat industry is expected to kill millions of animals by means including suffocating chickens in foam and gassing animals, extreme measures nonetheless approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). 

According to a report in the Guardian Tuesday, those efforts are continuing, with the tactics used to "depopulate" the pig population some of the most extreme:

For pig culls, AVMA "preferred methods" include injectable anesthetic overdose, gassing, shooting with guns or bolts, electrocution and manual blunt force trauma. AVMA methods "permitted in constrained circumstances" include ventilator shutdown (VSD), potentially combined with carbon dioxide gassing, and sodium nitrite which would be ingested by pigs.

Speaking more graphically, [Mercy for Animals president Leah] Garcés said manual blunt force trauma can mean slamming piglets against the ground while VSD would "essentially cook the pigs alive."

The barbarity of the industrial meat industry, wrote Harvard's Winters, makes the case for a new beginning after the pandemic is over.

"We must not waste this opportunity to start mending our broken relationship with animals," Winters wrote. "This begins with the end of factory farming and the redirection of all government relief and future subsidies towards plant-based agriculture and food processing."

"These kinds of systemic solutions are the only way to truly show compassion to animals," he added.

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