Recently I went on my first Openrescue. ALV had a tip off about large piles of dead chicks outside a broiler chicken factory an hour from Melbourne and our mission was to investigate and save as many chicks as we could. As an eighteen year old who desperately wanted to get as active as possible in helping animals, I was incredibly excited. An open rescue seemed like an empowering activity, a way of really opposing the animal abuse industry and – with our upcoming KFC protests – alerting the flesh-eating public to the cruelty they support.
Around midnight we left ALV’s headquarters in the rescue van. The air outside was cold and crisp and I was nervous to finally take tangible action against animal suffering. As a first-timer I was helpfully
informed of the ins and outs of peaceful rescues. The team had varying
degrees of experience, but all were confident and eager to save some lives. I felt positive and optimistic; a rare experience when dealing with animal rights issues.
The farm had three sheds. A strong smell emanated from them, making each breath somewhat unpleasant. The ground was uneven and covered with weeds, the smell became stronger as we approached the sheds. The crescent moon provided little light and after a very slow and awkward venture through the darkness, we came upon a small door into the shed which was unlocked.
Once I had stepped inside and the door was closed, all visions of excitement or feelings of empowerment were sucked out of me. I had heard descriptions, I had seen footage and photos, but there is nothing that can prepare you for your first time inside a broiler shed. Disgustingly dim yellow light buzzed from the roof and left me feeling a little disorientated. The pungency of the smell hit me first. The thick, hot, damp air pierced my nose and my throat, putting to shame the unpleasantness of the smell outside. Even with a bio-facemask it was totally overwhelming. The floor was about 10 to 15 cms deep with the bird’s droppings, the ammonia burned my eyes. My feet would sink in parts and rip the shoe covers off my bio suit, leaving the sole and laces of my shoes covered in excrement.
It was a surreal place, like a dream – though more a nightmare. It was not of this world, like something from a horror film. Yet this was food production. This is how the ‘ingredients’ sold at KFC, McDonalds and other fast food joints live. I was so overwhelmed by the horrific conditions that it totally numbed me. Which was good as it meant I was able to concentrate on getting as many birds as we could out of their living hell.
It was difficult to walk on the soggy wet manure and it looked even more
distressing for the chicks. They were only five weeks old, yet the size of any full grown chicken I have ever seen. Many had crippled legs, bending backwards, coming out to the side or under the wing. It was unreal to see. Many of the chicks couldn’t stand up to reach food or water. Their bodies had outgrown their legs and they couldn’t support their own weight. We helped some of these birds to water and they drank like mad.
That night we rescued fourteen birds. We brought them back to ALV’s
sanctuary and kept them inside nestled on fresh hay and hand fed them food and water. A friend and I slept in the room with them overnight. To see them in the morning light filled me with both relief and pangs of sadness for those left behind. Their white feather coats were covered in manure. Their claws and hock joints were deformed and some were embedded with rock-hard manure. But now they were safe and free. They were chirping and intrigued by their new surroundings. They were no longer prisoners of an industry that profits from inflicting pain on the meek and the vulnerable. Never have I felt more passionate about the need to liberate these beautiful animals and put an end to the violent, bloody acts of terror inherent in animal agriculture.
Read more about the Bayles Openrescue at alv.org.au