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For Thanksgiving, An Animal Rescue

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Berman-Hen1This past weekend, with Thanksgiving and all of its implications looming, a friend and I set out on a mission to save a life, and in the end saved two. Though they aren’t human, or furry and four legged, they matter just as much to us. We found them in a filthy pen inside a half-deli half-market, crammed tightly in with thousands of others like them; their own waste covering the cement floor, the rank smell of ammonia filling the air, mixed with the distinct and overpowering feeling of fear. As we waited, several of their friends were chosen: grabbed by their legs and carted upside down to the back room to have their throats slit, while a man stood patiently waiting to bring home that night’s dinner, unmoved by what that meant. Then, the same rough handling for them as they cowered in fear, only they were shoved inside of a cardboard box and handed to us. They were the lucky ones, and we ran out of there with them and away from the horrors as fast as we could.

They eyed us with a resigned trepidation as we lifted the lid of the box, too terrified to move until our hands came towards them and they fought us for their lives. No human had ever shown them a drop of mercy, so why wouldn’t they fear us? We put them in a warm, clean space with plenty of food and water, but they didn’t move all night and into the morning, until thirst and hunger finally coaxed them out of their box for a 2 a.m. feast.

That day we carried the cage out into the yard for what was undoubtedly their first glimpse of the outdoors, and opened the cage door. They were mesmerized by the sky and the trees, the sounds of birds chirping and leaves crunching. They took their first wary steps out of the cage, feeling grass on their feet for the first time. They spent the rest of the day exploring around the yard side-by-side; scratching in the dirt, romping through the leaves, pecking at tasty treats in the grass, and later, settling down next to us and eating out of our hands.

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Over a period of two and a half days, we learned their individual personalities as they became more confident, gave them fitting names (Cheryl and Wanda), and earned a bit more of their trust; these once horribly mistreated, disrespected creatures, brought into this world for the sole purpose of having a violent end, finally gaining their dignity. And then they left us, their time with us only a short stopover before going on to their permanent home at a farm sanctuary, where they will live out their lives in peaceful chicken bliss and hopefully forget all about their horrific past.

In the end though, the horrors that brought them into this world will win. Regardless of whether they were to be slaughtered or not, they were born with a death sentence: genetic manipulation will cause them to grow so large so fast that their legs will give out within the next year, and the merciful sanctuary founder will euthanize them before their insides can become infested with maggots. Those babies, only three months old, born to die so soon regardless of the cause. But until that imminent day, those two precious souls are happy hens, safe, and now blissfully ignorant to the violence that once awaited them. They will now only know love and respect for the rest of their days.

Alyssa Berman is a Verona resident. The hens now reside at Barnyard Sanctuary in Columbia, N.J.Berman-Hen2

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