Animal Place Rescues 1,000 Hens from Iowa Egg Farm Struggling under COVID-19
Two chartered planes flew the birds to freedom; Animal Place serves 1,000 vegan lunches to celebrate
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – Animal Place, California’s oldest and largest sanctuary for farmed animals, has rescued 1,000 hens from an egg farm in Iowa that scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hens flew to Animal Place’s Grass Valley sanctuary via chartered private planes paid for by a generous donor.
Infected workers, slaughterhouse closures, and disrupted supply chains are wreaking havoc on America’s tenuous animal agricultural systems, and farmers are “depopulating” millions of animals. The egg farm, which asked not to be identified, planned to kill more than 100,000 hens with carbon dioxide gas. The farm made an unusual decision to allow individuals onto the property to take hens, and local animal advocates alerted Animal Place, which specializes in large-scale rescues.
Highlights of the rescue:
- Two Animal Place staffers drove nearly 30 hours from California to Iowa to coordinate the rescue with eight local volunteers
- The farm employs a battery cage system with cages stacked four to five high, and 10 hens per cage
- Rescuers found cages with surviving hens forced to stand and walk on top of deceased hens; dead hens littered the aisles of the barn
- Animal Place staff escorted the hens on the flights
- The flight from Fort Dodge, Iowa to Truckee, Calif. was eight hours long including a stop to refuel
- The lucky 1,000 will be nursed back to health and then adopted into backyard flocks throughout California
- Any hens who are too ill to be adopted will remain at the sanctuary and receive lifelong care
- Animal Place will serve 1,000 vegan lunches in farmworker communities to show appreciation for their work feeding the nation
“The entire process, from the 27-hour drive, arriving at the farm at 3 a.m., 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,” said Animal Place animal care director Hannah Beins. “I would do it again in a heartbeat, 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.”
“Given the distance and the logistics, our staff and supporters had to step up even more than usual,” said Animal Place executive director Kim Sturla. “Unfortunately not even we can take in 100,000 hens, 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.”
Even though they have many years of life ahead of them, once their production slows down, at 12-18 months, egg-laying hens are typically killed and replaced with new ones. Ninety-five percent of hens in the United States are housed in wire battery cages, allowing them less space than a standard piece of paper, unable to stretch their wings. Hens are bred for unusually high egg production, which depletes their calcium and causes osteoporosis and fractured bones. For more information visit https://animalplace.org/the-truth-about-chicken-farming.
To celebrate 1,000 lives saved, Animal Place is serving 1,000 vegan lunches to local farmworkers and their families. Details of this effort will be announced separately.
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About Animal Place
Animal Place, founded in 1989, is one of the oldest and largest animal sanctuaries in the nation, operating a 600-acre sanctuary in Grass Valley, California, a 12-acre animal shelter in Petaluma, California, and an all-vegan market in Berkeley, California. Animal Place fills a much-needed niche of farm animal rescue, sanctuary, education, and adoption. Animals arrive from small and large farms, slaughterhouses, research facilities, and neglect or cruelty cases. Just in the past 10 years Animal Place has saved more than 28,000 animals. Animal Place – named best farm sanctuary in the country by Best in Shelter – is a nonprofit 501c3 organization funded by private donors. For more information, visit www.animalplace.org.