Hen Holocaust Avoided in Vacaville

Categories: Animals, Food

Jayme Frye
An animal sanctuary in Vacaville narrowly saved 1,200 former egg-laying hens from a massive hen Holocaust by airlifting them from the Vacaville factory farm where they faced gassing.

Evidently a private donor is footing the bill for a private plane, so these poultry can fly in style.The lucky hens will be loaded up around 3 p.m. today at Animal Place, a sanctuary with facilities in Vacaville, and will be carted to the Hayward Executive Airport, where they'll be loaded onto a jet and flown to Elmira Airport.

Nine East Coast sanctuaries and shelters will take the hens in, either sending them to adoptive homes, or keeping them as refugees.About 1,800 hens will remain at Animal Place in Vacaville so they cab be adopted locally.

Spokespeople from Animal Place say this is the first time an animal rights group has enabled mass hen asylum, although more operations may take place in the future, once people realize how hens are treated in the factory farm system. Several major egg producers have taken to gassing their chickens before slaughtering them, a practice that, ironically, is considered more humane than the tradition of hanging chickens by their feet and slitting their throats.

Gassing may indeed be a mitigating factor for those of us who still eat omelettes and aborted chick fetuses, although it doesn't solve the problem of so much poultry routinely going to waste. "In California, virtually all 'spent'/unwanted laying hens are gassed or dumped," Animal Place says, adding that such execution methods are more economical than sending chickens to a slaughterhouse.

Granted, cross-country chicken rescue operations might not be the most economical solution, either -- or even the most environmental one. Perhaps we should just take comfort in knowing that many California chickens spend their short lives roaming cafe-free, eating the same vegan diets that have become au courant in San Francisco.

Or perhaps we should think of this rescue as an opportunity for humans to learn more about their feathered friends. Animal Place executive director Kim Sturla says she encourages chicken adoption partly so that people can realize "they're not stupid, unfeeling animals." Ultimately, she adds, we should extend as much compassion to a hen as we would to a parakeet or a dog.

At the very least, this group of air-lifted hens will get a chance to roam free for a few years, with no gas chamber on the horizon. This may be the hens' only chance to fly, anyway.

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"I just flew in from Vacaville, and boy, are my wings tired …"

Paul Varga
Paul Varga

"Welcome, chickens, to flight 425, to Louisville. I am your pilot, Captain Sanders."

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