On February 6, 2012 A & L Poultry egg farm workers abandoned 50,000 hens in wire cages without food. They simply walked off the compound and left the hens there to starve to death. The company’s excuse was that there had been a lack of communication between management and the people who had been hired to feed the birds. However, it was later discovered that the company had run out of money and simply decided to leave the hens to die.
The authorities were informed of the situation and were ordered to get rid of the problem by killing the hens that were still alive. It was then that an organization called Animal Place, which is dedicated to farm animal rescue, heard about what was going on, and jumped in to take action. By that time the birds had not been fed for well over two weeks. A state official estimated that when they first arrived at the location, about a third of the birds had already starved to death and those who were still alive were in terrible conditions.
Ironically, state officials refused to allow the birds to be rescued even after a number of organizations and individuals said they were willing to take them and care for them. The officials had been ordered to kill the animals and so they began gassing the hens. It seemed like they wanted to continue to do so.
The gassing process consisted of throwing the hens into large bins and then connecting the bin to carbon dioxide. The dead birds would then be thrown into dump trucks that would then transport them to landfills.
Animal Place continued to demand that the birds be turned over to them for rescuing, but nobody seemed to be listening. However, they were determined to do whatever was necessary to rescue the birds. None of the volunteers were willing to leave without at least trying to get a few chickens out of the cages and away from the gas bins. They were not going to take ‘no’ for an answer, either.
These birds had lived their entire lives under strict confinement in a metal cage. They had never felt the ground, had never seen the sun, and were not used to moving more than a few inches. So when they were finally taken to the sanctuary, they had no idea how to deal with freedom. In spite of all the space, the chickens kept clumping into bundles, as they had been accustomed to doing in their cages. Others died because they had suffered too much and just weren’t strong enough to make it.
This became the largest rescue of farm animals in California history. Most of the hens that were rescued went into loving homes, but this could have been another story with a tragic ending, had it not been for the dozens of people who saw it as their moral duty to defend the helpless.