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8 October 2000 Issue

Buckeye Egg Farm Tragedy
submitted by: SandieGaertner@gateway.net

Featured on National Public Radio

If you listened to NPR Monday, you might have heard the bittersweet report about the ongoing tragedy at the Buckeye Egg Farm in Xenia, Ohio. The Buckeye Egg Farm is notorious to people who care about animals, because it is considered to be one of the many "factory farms" that houses hundreds of thousands of chickens in small "battery" cages; that is, cages made of wire and so crowded with de-beaked chickens that they are unable to move or flap their wings.

However, for the first time ever, the activists and Buckeye Egg Farm employees and management are working side by side to save at least some of the chickens, or at least insure a humane death to the others, who will otherwise die a slow agonizing death of starvation and dehydration.

The following is an account of one of the animal activists, who has been at the Buckeye Egg Farm and involved in the "rescue operation." This is an edited version, because some of the details are too gruesome to print:

Sunday, Sept. 24, 4 P.M.
Unless you've been locked in a sensory-deprivation tank, you probably know that the twister that hit Xenia, moved on to the Buckeye Egg Farm last Wednesday night and destroyed at least 12 barns that hold 85,000 to 90,000 hens each. Starting at 8:35 PM that night, over one million birds were stranded without food and water. Since then, Buckeye employees have been destroying the animals: gassing, then burning, and finally hauling carcasses away to a landfill in Wapakoneta. We know how effective gassing is with pound dogs, (ie, it can be a slow, painful death) so you can imagine how haphazard and horrendous it must be for the chickens.

Two of us went out there Thursday morning to inquire about rescuing the few we could manage to find homes for. We were put on hold until local processors and farmers could get in to remove as many birds as possible, and until the killing machine could be put in place. It's hard to get exact figures, but it looks like they've been destroying upwards of 25,000 birds per day. As of today, Sunday, something like a quarter million birds are gone -- one way or the other.

Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. has offered to take 1000 birds, and a truck is coming in to collect the animals as soon as the go-ahead comes from Buckeye Egg. The company is a reluctant participant in a humane rescue because they just don't know how the public relations will shake out for them when animal lovers enter the mix. But they sense that not to let at least some of the animals be rescued might be a bigger story for the press, because they might finally see first hand how awful these animal concentration camps are under the best of conditions.

The other wrinkle in this rescue is the danger of barn roofs further collapsing and injuring volunteers for which Buckeye would then be held liable. There are plenty of barns where the roofs and walls are missing altogether, but they seem to be killing those animals that are sitting in battery cages in the open air. The management is now trying to bring in cranes to remove those roofs that haven't already been blown away so that rescuers can get access to the birds without fear of being crushed.

Sunday 24 SEP 00 10:30 PM
Just got back from helping load over a thousand hens into a caravan of trucks headed to Pennsylvania, the closest place Farm Sanctuary can find to stash these many animals. Two POET members (Protect Our Earth's Treasures, located in Columbus), Bill Long and Amie Hafner are splitting the four-hour drive each way to deliver one truckload of birds. The rest of the drivers are from a sanctuary in Pennsylvania God bless 'em all!

The situation out there is grotesque. HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) recommended tenting the broken barns and pumping-in gas, as opposed to throwing the birds in a truck and gassing them there. Terminix came in today to try the tent killing and it was a total flop. The barns are the size of airplane hangars. They just couldn't manage such a huge undertaking. That means the birds will just starve to death in their cages, because the truck/gas method is too slow to get to the hundreds of thousand of animals before they dehydrate and starve.

If anyone has a relative who lives on a farm and can take a few of these creatures, it would be welcomed by Buckeye Egg and those of us who have seen the situation out there and can't sleep at night.

Not to get too anecdotal, but we had are own disaster when loading the birds into the first truck. It was cold and rainy and we had left the heat on. The birds who were wet and cold themselves piled into one corner of the truck and the hens on the lowest level immediately suffocated. We had to pull the living birds off the dead birds and discard the dead birds. It was devastating. What were we? Their saviors, or their tormentors? We then turned on the air conditioning, which was completely counterintuitive, but it worked. These poor creatures, who were at first terrified by the straw bedding we laid out, since they have only lived in wire cages, soon started nesting and clucking. From factory robots, they turned into "The Girls" and we fell in love with them.

They're out there. If anyone on this list can help chip away at this huge catastrophe by saving just one innocent little life, we'll all be the better for it.

…Understandably, most people who live in the city have no place to house barnyard animals. And those who live three states away from Ohio are stymied by the transportation problem. The logistics are maddening.

September 26, 00 11:00p.m.
It's late Monday night. I just got back from delivering some survivors from the pullet operation to an activist in Marysville who started her own farm animal sanctuary this summer.

Another caravan of trucks headed back to the sanctuary in Pennsylvania tonight. (The same place that took in nearly 800 birds Sunday night.) Thank you to Nathan Runkle of St. Paris, Oh and Molly Fearing of Cable, Ohio for volunteering to make the long drive to New Stanton, Pa. Bill Long and Amie Hafner got back at 8:00 AM Monday and reported that the barn for the hens in Pennsylvania is wonderful. The hens are adapting beautifully, which pretty much wrecks the argument by poultry scientists that today's selectively bred hens are little more than laying machines incapable of behavior exhibited by their free-range ancestors.

Here are some informational tidbits that may be helpful to those of you who are deciding how best to participate in the rescue:

1. The birds have been without food and water for five full days. The HSUS has told Buckeye Egg that, in some cases, birds can go for 21 days without food and water. So for those of you who thought you had passed the time line for rescue, you haven't.

2. You must have permission to enter onto Buckeye Egg property. The number to call is 740.893.7200. The persons to contact are Steve Wagner and/or Bill Glass. They are top executives with the company and have arranged for their employees to work overtime to aid with the loading of the birds. The owner of Buckeye Egg, Anton Pohlmann, is no where to be found. Feel free to say that Ritchie Laymon gave you the contact. They are somewhat paranoid about activists calling out of the blue. I'm, at least, the "devil" they know.

3. Buckeye Egg is located on Croton Road in Licking County very close to the juncture of Routes 62 and 37. Look for Johnstown, Ohio on the map which is six miles away. The main office is unmarked, but is located on Croton Road just past Westley Chapel Road on one side, and several extremely large grain elevators on the same side as the office. You must always check-in with the main office before proceeding to the laying sites.

4. Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY may know of someone in your area who can provide a van or truck for the drive to Croton. You can contact Lorri or Gene Bauston of Farm Sanctuary at 607.583.7376. Please thank them for their efforts.

5. The birds that Buckeye Egg is allowing us to rescue are robust. (The nearly "spent" hens are being gassed.) However, having said that, they may still harbor a common respiratory illness in factory-farmed chickens that is transmissible to other birds but not to humans or other animals. It is not a fatal bacteria, but if you are housing these birds on a property with other chickens, the Buckeye birds probably should be kept separate for two weeks, or one month to be absolutely safe.

6. The birds should not be fed immediately after rescue. The most important thing to do is hydrate them. After they've had water, then allow them to eat chicken feed. The reverse could cause bloating and possibly death.

7. For those who have no homes to offer, financial help is important as well. Picking up the tab on a tank of gas could mean the difference between a trip being made or scratched. Contact Farm Sanctuary (above phone) to donate funds.

8. Calls to the sanctuary in Pennsylvania would be welcome and are definitely in order. Please thank Cayce (pronounced K.C.), Jay, and their newborn son Aidan, and their crew for traveling back and forth to Ohio to rescue over 1500 birds, and for providing lifetime care for Our Liberated Ladies. Their number is 724.755.2420.

In another note: Ohio's Director of Agriculture, Fred Dailey, is holding a five-day conference in Columbus starting tomorrow to which all 50 directors of Agriculture in the U.S. have been invited. Also in attendance will be USDA chief Dan Glickman and representatives of Bush and Gore. Governor Taft will give opening remarks. I plan to attend this conference and corner as many agriculture directors as I can to tell them of the situation in Ohio and beg them to stop the promotion of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) in their states. Ohio is in the process of passing legislation (SB 141 crafted by the Farm Bureau and due to be voted out immediately after the November elections) that will essentially be a welcome mat for more Buckeye Eggs. Shame on our legislature!

Please call or e-mail if I have not adequately answered your questions re the rescue.

Thank you for caring.

Ritchie Laymon
POET Columbus
614.486.6506
Laymon.1@osu.edu

There you have it. Hot off the press. If anyone out there can help in any way, your efforts will be appreciated. You will possibly save the life of a few unfortunate chickens, who have lived their short lives in battery cages and are now dying a slow, agonizing death.
[Editor's Note: We at ARO are bringing this story to our readers as soon as we
could, but time is quickly passing. If you can help, don't delay.]

Go on to Help Wanted at ARO
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