Posted on May 25, 2017
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
A woman in Knoxville was driving on her way to work today and she fell behind a truck full of chickens, undoubtedly heading for slaughter. The wind was hitting their faces, blinding their eyes and strewing their feathers around wildly. All of a sudden one of the chickens fell off the truck and hit the road. Thankfully this woman was kind and stopped to pick her up. The chicken was in shock, very dirty, and injured. The woman didn’t know what to do so she called us.
We took her right away to the vet hospital to be examined. She had a large tear on her chest and her beak was fractured from the fall. The vet said he would be willing to treat her, but the recovery would be long and difficult; she would most likely never be able to eat normally and would need a feeding tube. She was a broiler chicken, which means that she was genetically engineered to grow very big, very fast, so she could be slaughtered at only a few weeks old. The genetic engineering made it so she would continue growing in an alarmingly fast rate until she would no longer be able to walk. If we stitched her up, put in a feeding tube, and helped her get through the recovery process, she would most likely live only a few more weeks until she would have to be helped out of her body anyway. The vet strongly recommended that we not put her through all that and we help her transition now. Even though we didn’t want to give up on her, we knew he was right and took his advice.
We only knew her for about an hour, but we cannot stop thinking about her. In that short time we had a chance to witness her strong spirit and her vibrant personality. Her body might have been abnormally large and set up to fail from day one, but her heart was that of a baby. She had blue eyes as all newborns do, she was full of innocence and curiosity, and she had just barely grown in her adult feathers. If she hadn’t been genetically engineered, she would have been a tiny peeping chick still huddled under her mommy for protection.
Her life was just four weeks long: hatched in an incubator, put on a conveyer belt after birth to have her beak and her toes cut off with a hot blade, sent to a cage to grow for 4 weeks, loaded on a truck to fall off, be injured, and be put to sleep. Instead of hatching in a nest with her mommy, being raised with her siblings, learning language, chasing bugs, scratching for seeds in the earth, lounging in the sun, rolling in the sand, and being loved and nurtured for at least seven to ten years. She was robbed of life and of joy. She was cheated out of family and friends. She was denied time to fall in love and be loved. She never ran or jumped for joy or felt grass beneath her feet. She never made a nest or laid an egg. She never tasted fresh fruit. She never cooled her feet off on a hot day by standing in a fresh cold bowl of water. She was never held by a child. She never felt safe. She never mattered … except to us!
In that hour that we shared, we talked to her. We smoothed down her feathers and preened her. We gave her the first and last soft, gentle pat. We gave her a name. We were her witness. We walked her home. We loved her!
Frankie was only one of an entire truckload of chicks who had the same awful life and were being driven to slaughter. They didn’t know love and they died terrified at a slaughterhouse at the hands of brutal strangers, with no witness at all. Every time we buy meat, we are paying people to do this on our behalf. There are plant-based foods that taste better, are better for us, and harm no one. Would you consider being their witness along with us and adopting a plant based diet so they didn’t have to die in vain? Please visit our Plant-Based Diet page for more information and support on your journey towards healthier, kinder eating habits: for the planet, for the animals, for health, and for Frankie!