The other day, while out for an afternoon walk with my son, we came upon this beautiful lady looking lost and anxious in the middle of a busy road. All the while, cars were speeding by, honking their horns, or rolling down their windows to get a better view of a chicken crossing the road. Many laughed and jeered. Three times I had to shout to get a driver’s attention so that they wouldn’t just run her over. Then one woman finally stopped and I thought she was going to help me help this precious girl.
She got out of her car and said, “I’ll just chase her with the car and get her out of the road.”
I was disgusted and incredulous. I said, “I’d rather you didn’t do that. I’m trying to help her and scaring her more isn’t going to help. Plus, it’s cruel.”
When I explained that I was going to try to scoop her up she looked appalled.
“Are you really going to touch her?!”
“Why not?” was all I could think to say.
She sped off. Two other people stopped briefly to let me know that they knew of different houses in the neighborhood where chickens lived. But no one got out of their cars to to help and no one was concerned about the hen herself. They just wanted her to move out of their way and stop inconveniencing them.
This went on for about twenty minutes. During which I was trying desperately to win over the hen and gain some sense of trust; enough for her to let me pick her up, while at the same time, keeping my three-year-old son safe with me on the side of the road. I nearly managed it, too. Until one of the women who had stopped came back and said, “I found her owner!”
In the car with her was another woman who was laughing and joking about the chicken fleeing her property. And it was one of those moments for me, you know? When you want so badly to confront the inhumanity of it all. And you want to present a different perspective and offer other choices, and I just couldn’t form the words. I froze up.
The entire experience for me was baffling, maddening, disheartening, and so f…ing sad that I turned away from her thanks and praise, picked up my son and walked the rest of the way home crying.
Not only is the hen going back to a place where she is viewed as nothing more than an egg-laying machine, but the majority of people in the world don’t see anything wrong with that. If she had been a dog or a cat that I had been trying to save, many more people would have helped in my efforts. I know this to be true from countless experiences where numerous good Samaritans have joined me in saving dogs from certain death.
Backyard chickens are problematic for so many reasons. All of which begin with the false notion that animals are property and can be owned by a human being. I don’t give a damn what the law says. This poor girl does not belong roaming busy streets being taunted by ignorant and cruel people. She does not belong enslaved in the yard of someone who will take everything she has before she dries up; no longer of any use or value. She will die an awful death. She deserves so much better than this.
I tried to help and I feel like I failed on this one. But I’ll never forget her and her sweet cries and I promise to keep trying; not just for some, but for all.
This is the email response I received after sharing my story: I was very moved by your email regarding the lost chicken. I’m using it as my motivation to transition to vegan. I can’t deny how upset I got after hearing about how little anyone valued that chicken’s life. And I can no longer deny that I’m part of the problem.
Tears of joy!! Feeling so grateful to have received this message after sharing the story of the hen I tried to rescue last week. This is why I share about my experiences; both positive and negative. Knowing that her story has had such a profound impact gives me hope that others will read it, make the connection, and as a result, make whatever changes they need to, to no longer be part of the problem.
It takes a courageous person to admit that their behaviors/actions are problematic and to take action to do better. Each and every one of us has the potential to grow and transform into the absolute best versions of ourselves. Choosing to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves, and recognizing the inherent value in the lives of all instead of just some, is a huge step in that direction. Choose vegan today and all days. Not for some, but for all.
Erica Settino is a published writer, long-time yoga teacher and activist, and the Editor-at-large for Creations Magazine. More information about Erica and her work can be found at karunaforanimals.com and ericasettino.com.