Friday, May 9, 2014

Turlock, the documentary

The new documentary, Turlock, chronicles the largest rescue of chickens from animal neglect in U.S. history. It all began in Turlock, California in 2013 when the animal sanctuary, Animal Place, was informed that the A&L Poultry Farm abandoned 50,000 egg-laying hens in their battery cages without food. In fact, they hadn't eaten in two weeks and many of them were still alive.

Animal Place volunteers and employees rushed to action, organizing one of the largest animal rescue efforts in history. Throughout this documentary, you witness not only the rescue taking place, but you get an insider's view of the emotional toll it takes on those involved through in-depth interviews with the volunteers and employees.  If you always viewed chickens only as food, this documentary will make you see them as individuals for the first time.

They show thousands of sick, emaciated hens piled on top of one another living in the horrific conditions that are your typical factory farm. There, egg-laying hens live in battery cages so small they can not spread their wings. And they never see the light of day. One worker stated that most people see chickens as trash and that they are only as valuable as their productivity. This is sad, but true. Below is a picture of the facility as they found it laden with feces and feathers.

After two weeks of hard work, 4,500 hens were rescued and Animal Place employees and volunteers began around-the-clock care to try to save all of them.  These chickens had never known freedom and didn't know what to do when they had space to move around. The images will bring tears to your eyes. After a few weeks, they began displaying the behaviors that normal chickens display when allowed to live freely -- sunbathing, dustbathing, and digging. It was miraculous. And in the end, they lost about 400 birds and still saved 4,100.

The information about factory farms will make you think twice about continuing to consume eggs. Normal chickens only lay about 30 eggs per year. Factory-raised hens lay about 300 -- their bodies are so spent from all this work that they only live a little over a year. Their male babies are ground up as they are useless to the egg laying industry and female babies are put into production as soon as they are ready.

All of the workers were touched deeply by what they experienced. At the end, they described the efforts they put forth to get all of the chickens adopted and interviewed some of the new caretakers of these birds.  I commend filmmaker, Keegan Kuhn, for producing this touching, eye-opening story as I'm sure it will make people think twice about the eggs they consume. What's the ultimate message? Go vegan. But, even if you aren't going vegan right now, please watch this movie as it is an incredible story that shows how a community can come together to save individual's lives. To host your own screening of the movie, go here; otherwise, the DVD will be out soon!

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