First of all I would like to shout out A BIG THANK YOU to Alexis, who helped me a lot in writing this long article. Who helped me in getting all the names of her animals in the correct order, giving me the permission to publish her photos and who wrote part of the text. You’re such an inspiration and an amazing soul who deserves all the help and love in the whole world to keep the sanctuary going. To let it be a place where rescued animals can live without being harmed and just be loved.
As most Vegans do I love being around animals and to cuddle up and spend time with furry friends.
Some weeks ago I had the chance to visit the most beautiful place in northern Scotland. This place is owned and founded by Alexis Fleming (photo) who dedicates her life to the souls who had spend their life in terrible placements or who suffer from illness, looked to the future of being slaughtered or who had to spend their life being a breeding machine in so called free range farms.
To name a few there is the adorable sheep Gimli who is now in company of Hazel, Fig, Two Bears High Fiving and Virgo-Lilly who were all saved from being sent to have their throats cut open so people could go to the supermarket and buy their bodies as lamb.
There are the Turkeys James (who is absolutely keen on blueberries) and his lady friends Angela, Sandra and Amber.
The dogs Ri, Benny, Annie, B and Branflake, the pigs Emily and Charlotte and many rescued hens who suffered so much in their short period on earth. As so many people still thinks that “they’re just chicken” and believe in the myth of free range or organic, I would like to focus on the rescued hens and in particular Anna, Sharon and Georgia who to me stand for all the suffering which is sadly possible when growing up in record speed and between thousands of sisters. These three hens are the reason why I wanted to write this article, to tell their story and hopefully to make people aware of how hens are treated and that a breakfast egg is not worth the suffering (as if we don’t know about all this already in the very year 2017).
When Georgia, Lisa, Anna, Sophia, Candi, and Hilary arrived at the Karass Santuary the girls were broken and in a terrible condition, near to death and I am sure if I would ever be treated and neglected that way, I would rather like to die instead of going through all that suffering until someone (a “human” being) decides and choose what happens to me, the likelihood is to be killed because the hens cannot cope the pressure they’re put under. They cannot cope with the situation they’re forced to be in anymore.
People expect “happy hens” to lay an egg now and then, which can be then served for breakfast as sunny side up (doesn’t this sound just lovely and without any hidden cruelty already? Just like a hen lives on the sunny side of life *I so wish this would be the case for every hen in the world), scrambled egg or be used in a cake or to make other kinds of foods. Eggs and egg powder (either dried egg yolk powder or white egg powder) can be found in a lot of products such as biscuits, ready to buy cakes, in many vegetarian products like Quorn for example or to be used as glaze for buns etc. The problem with those hidden eggs is that you never know where they come from and they certainly doesn’t come from happy hens who only live outside, free range, on a huge field with grass and sunshine.
The truth is that hens are being put in massive halls with thousands of other sisters. Brothers have already being sorted out on the conveyor because they are useless for the egg industry. Every year more than 50 Million male chicken are gassed or shredded, because a male chicken cannot lay eggs as we all know. They are as well useless for the meat industry because they don’t they don’t grow up as profitable as female chicken. Mostly it’s the female animal who has to give her body for the dairy, and egg industries.
Feeding back their eggs helps replenish some of the nutrients excessive egg-laying strips from their bodies. They would normally lay around 20 eggs a year, but they are genetially engineered to lay 10- 14 times that amount – up to 350 eggs in just one year, or one every 24-26 hours – in their short lives to serve our species’ lust for their eggs. This is an enormous genetic burden and in just 18 and it will in a very short space of time, far before they reach their natural life span, kill them. This is the same for all egg production systems, including free range. Imagine how exhausted and worn out you would be if you had a period every other day. Your body would be so tired and you’d feel drained all the time. I can’t even bear the thought.
We are in pain, we suffer, some of us have to take painkillers or snuggle up under the blanket with a hot water bottle and have it cosy. We are happy when the pain is gone after few days and commence again after few weeks.
Imagine being in that pain every single day.
To lay an egg is exhausting and it takes time and a lot of physical resources from the hen whose egg it is. Because a hen is put in a massive hall with thousands of others, there is not enough space for them at all. They hardly see daylight, usually it’s the artificial light. Free range is a myth. Where should all the hens live, according to millions of eggs, people are consuming each year. Every few years you can hear in the news about a disease which infects for example a hundred chickens. But because the disease is contagious in most cases, all of the animals have to be killed, gased, whatever. Whatever is as cheap as possible to get rid of them, and best to kill them all, “just in case”.
For broiler hens – the ones whose bodies are sold as whole chicken, elegs, breast or wings – there are also a multitude of crippling genetic deformities. The farmers (who are not the nice guys from your neighbour’s farm with their tweed hats and the lovely dog next to them who cares about their hens) buy new chickens, to feed and fatten them, so they gain much breast meat. The chickens become so heavy in such a short period – they are given just 42 days to live – that they cannot stand on their feet anymore. They develop heart disease, they suffer between dead chickens in the shed (imagine that you must watch and witness the death of your friend for days). Because the space which they are offered is so small, their beaks are often shortened to prevent damage to each other caused by intense frustration The hens are supposed to survive in their own poo which falls through the cage or piles up on the floor. No, there is of course no one who cleans the chicken barn every day. Thinking of 20.000 hen or even more in a hall, there can’t be a VET around. In the chicken industry it isn’t about animal welfare but money. It’s not called Industry for nothing. (The details in this paragraph refer to broiler hens, not egg laying hens).
However, Sofia, Georgia, Lisa, Candi, Hilary couldn’t enjoy their freedom and although they desperately wanted to live, their broken bodies had been worked to death. And while writing this and having the pictures of them in my mind, how cruel people are and how broken they were, I have tears in my eyes again. The biggest problem I face being a Vegan is not, that I might not know what to get to eat or where I do get my protein from ( 1 Million Dollar Question) but that I did research over research and I am aware of the truth and what is happening to the animals. To know that so many people are still not aware of the suffering, torture, killing – even though we live in the 21st century people prefer to look away (because then there is no problem and no suffering) rather than facing what is really going on and how it is not ok at all.
To me Sophia is the poorest soul. Here is a a text from Alexis which she published on Facebook when she took care of Sophia. Reading what Sophia must have been through, makes me angry with all the people who think it is ok to treat animals that way, they’re just an item in their eyes, just a chicken, just something and not someone. Not a she or he, but an it.
WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES
The photos of Sophia’s condition are last so will not appear unless you choose to see them.
Several weeks ago one of the hens who was rehomed came back. She is desperately ill, and her person didn’t know what to do. When she – Sophia – arrived, she was in great distress and pain. She was egg-bound, and her vent (where her egg comes out, and where she excretes) was necrotic; the tissue was dead and coming away in my hand as I cleaned her. This did not happen overnight; she must have been suffering for weeks as her flesh died. She was in agony, and it took a long time of helping her with warm water, petroleum jelly and gentle squeezing while she strained and screamed before she passed the egg. Thankfully it was intact, or it could have caused fatal infection inside of her. She was also very constipated and once the egg passed a huge amount of poo came pouring out. This happens primarily because egg-laying hens are engineered to lay around 10 times more eggs than they naturally would and it places a huge strain on them, and their bodies start to fail and shut down. This is the same for all egg-layers; Sophia came from a free-range, organic factory. If you are female, imagine having a period every three days and you’re getting close to imagining the toll this takes on their bodies.
Can you imagine? Imagine how it must feel being completely blocked up with all of the things that are supposed to come out of you, with no way of relieving it? How you would feel is how she feels. If she was still in the factory, laying her eggs to be sold for humans to eat, this is how she would have died. Like so many others.
What Sophia has gone through has one cause, and one solution. If thinking of her pain and how much she has gone through has made you feel, please hold onto that feeling and don’t push it aside. She needs you to feel that and to act on it. As I sit here holding her and comforting her and hoping that she does not die, the only thing that gives me any solace from her suffering is is knowing that I am not responsible for causing it. Sometimes in this world of perpetual, glossily-marketed, paid-for, normalised violence, that is the only peace you will find.
If someone would treat and harm his/her cat or dog the way people treat cows, calves, pigs or hens, they would be charged with a fine or even sentenced with prison. So why is this ok and why does it seems so “normal” to treat our beloved “pets” the best way we can and to start drawing a line behind them and to eat other animals? But people are attached to their pets, that’s why you would never eat them.
However, all animals feel pain, all animals have different characters and they are shy, curious, want to stick together with their family and not to be torn away from each other. This is common every day with cows who gave birth to a calf. Because people want to drink cow’s milk, the calf is either killed at birth if he is male – or sometimes sent to be confined to a veal crate – or, if she is female, she is going to be a dairy cow. But that is a different story even though as cruel as meat or egg industry.
Coming back to our hens who stand in on behalf of millions of hens who suffer each day.
When Alexis rescued them, their vent was infected and necrotic. As I wrote before there is no VET who cares about the chicken, they aren’t treated with antibiotics or medication to feel better soon. Because … why should they anyway?
Alexis was there 24 hours of each day to take care of them, to bath them with warm water to clean them and let them feel being safe and sound. On the photos you can see how broken they actually are. They are standing in the bathtub and would let Alexis do whatever she thinks of. Their eyes are full of sadness, their bodies destroyed because they are just breeding machines. Nobody ever cared about them.
Alexis took the girls to the VET and they were supplied with medication. Their chances of surviving their trauma were always very slim; aged just 18 months of age, their genetic legacy has taken its toll and their bodies have been worked to death. That is why they are sent to the slaughter house aged just 18 months. The ancestors from whom they are descended would live to be up to 10 years old. Of 10 very poorly hens who were taken to safety and into Hospice care, only 2 survived.
It makes me angry that billions of chickens die because people want to eat eggs. The period of a hen. That we could use an egg to have it for breakfast or to bake with it?
So many recipes call out for eggs, no matter if you want to make cakes, pancakes or mayonnaise.
If only 1 egg is required you can easily skip it, the recipe will work. Depending on the recipe you can use flaxseed or chia seeds as an alternative, even mashed banana or apple puree would work, as well cider vinegar or mineral water. <Insert recipe link?>
An awesome alternative for egg white is Aquafaba. Aquafaba is no magic spell or potion but just the brine of chickpeas which you can usually buy in a glass or can. You can whip it up with a hand blender, then add sugar and make meringue or spread it out as a layer on your cake. You can use the brine itself for binding in any recipe that requires egg-whites as you will see there is a certain stickiness. If you search on Google for Aquafaba, there are about 1,580,000 results for what you can do with it, you can even freeze it (best to do in ice cube trays for example and then to defrost them one by one). No excuse to use an egg again. And don’t worry, you won’t notice the chickpea or bean flavour by using it.
Some months ago there was a big scandal about millions of eggs being pulled back from supermarkets because they were polluted with Fipronil. Fipronil is an insecticide, a nerve poison. Also used for example in Frontline to help get rid of fleas when it comes to your beloved cat or dog. Fipronil is also often found in medication or flea collars for the neck of your cat. How can it be ok, to let small amounts of an insecticide get into the skin of your pet, but panic broke out after being found in eggs ?? Thinking of all the suffering the hens been through to lay those thousands and millions of eggs ….. and then they’re destroyed.
You might like to know about substitutions for eggs then and I am happy to provide you with a really nice and helpful chart. I am not a baker and only make pancakes (no need for eggs, I only use flour, plant based milk – Oatly and Kokos Dairy free or Rice Dream are my favourites – ) and yeast dough for pizza where no egg is required anyway, so I can’t really tell which sub is the best. You just have to give it a try 🙂
I am glad that some hens are relieved from their pain and are in a lovely hen heaven paradise now. Anna did fight and survived, but she will still be a victim of the egg industry she was born to serve, as her body will keep producing eggs and each one will take her a step closer to being worked to death. Despite being saved, she will never truly be free from the industry that brought her into existence, and it will take her life soon. She and the other hens still produce eggs which are given back to them to eat. The shell contains a lot of Calcium which is good for them.
If you are still keen to have your sunny side up tomorrow morning for breakfast, please think about what a hen is actually going through for you and if it is really necessary for you to have this egg.
If you would like to get to know Alexis and her animals, feel free to drop her a message on Facebook or contact her The Maggie Fleming Animal Hospice website. I am sure she is delighted to give you further information and you can pass by and visit the sanctuary. As the sanctuary is based on donations, all the animals would be happy to receive donations such as food or supplies to build a barn etc. Help (and money) is much appreciated.
Love isn’t measured by how big you are
Love can be large in the tiniest hearts
(Quote : Song “Little Giants” by Michael Patrick Kelly)