The USDA estimates there are at least 150 live poultry markets located primarily in Northeast metropolitan areas. These marketplaces sell more than 20 million birds to consumers each year under the guise of supporting sustainable, locally raised or backyard grown poultry. They play on the sympathy of people who are looking for birds raised in a free range, organic and humane environment. Research indicates this is not the case.
Animal rights group, Free from Harm calls the marketplaces anything but humane stating, “They all subject the birds to the same miserable existence and violent death as factory farmed animals.”
On a recent visit to a Chicago live bird market, Free from Harm documented cages stacked on top of each other crowded with chickens. Most were only weeks old and wore “kill collars” around their necks as customers stopped to buy fresh chickens.
The group came face to face with the myth of sustainable poultry markets when they were called to rescue a chicken that was found in a plastic bag on a busy street near a Chicago live poultry market. She had been thrown out as if she were trash. The young chicken, now named Edith, had been the property of a man who was selling live birds out of plastic bags to people on the street.
The person who found Edith reported that all of the man’s chickens were bloody, defeathered and emaciated. “Edith too had large patches of missing feathers,” said Robert Grillo, founder of Free from Harm.
Below are excerpts from about Edith’s recovery and progress:
Miraculously, considering the ordeal that Edith had been through, she appeared to be in good health. In fact, upon arriving at our sanctuary and being placed on the ground to explore, she immediately began scratching around and dustbathing. It was her first contact with the earth, and she was ecstatic.
Edith is a Cornish Rock breed, the most popular ‘meat’ breed; these birds have been genetically modified to grow excessively fast, reaching adult size in a mere 42 days. They have unnaturally large breasts and thighs, which their outpaced skeletons can barely support, and reach ‘slaughter weight’ in their infancy, still chirping like chicks. They develop many health complications due to this breeding. The chickens people are eating are just babies, and even younger than calves and lambs when they go to slaughter.
Here’s a firsthand account of Edith’s progress:
I continually marvel at how chickens observe and sometimes follow what we do. On her third day with me, Edith comes to me when I gesture or call to her. But even more remarkable, Edith climbed her first flight of stairs to join me at the top, but only when I encouraged her to do so. On the other hand, when I did not call or gesture to her to climb the stairs, she remained below.
Once at the top of the stairs, Edith sat calmly in my lap and pulled at my buttons on my shirt and pecked at the hair on my arm. Her feathers are soft, fluffy and newly grown. She lets out little chirping sounds of contentment every so often. All of this suddenly made me aware that she is really just a baby, exploring a new world where everything, every object, is a new adventure.
I also can see how she yearns to be with others. For the first time I heard a sad call come from her in the yard where she stays temporarily on the side of the house. The vet wants to keep her separated from the other girls for a week. She immediately perks up when she sees me peer out the window at her or come out to check on her. I think she’s going to be really happy here, especially when she is allowed to be in the company of the others.
Below is the video of this smart, young bird listening to instructions and climbing up a flight of stairs.
Photo Credit: RobertGrillo