The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small

From the Northampton Animal Concern Newsletter #1 (circa 1987)

"Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them whenever they require it" so said St Francis of Assisi.
If he were here today what do you think he'd have to say about a group of factory farmers who keep 10,000 hens, four or five to a cage measuring less than 16"x14" in two long low windowless sheds? What's more, what would he have to say if he were told that the perpetrators of this downright cruelty were the Mother Superior and the nuns of Our Lady of the Passion Monastery, Badby rd, Daventry??? I suggest that he would be indescribably irate, and rightly so.
The battery hen lives in terrible confinement, she stands or crouches on the sloping wire-mesh floor, day in, day out, for one or sometimes two years. She knows no comfort, no contentment, no fulfilment, she suffers continual stress, and her only outing is a nightmare journey to the slaughterhouse.
On Sunday 24th May 1987, ten members of Northampton Animal Concern travelled to the convent to inspect the conditions inside the battery farm, and to video what we saw. So as not to disturb the nuns praying, we approached from the rear as quickly and as quietly as possible. The front doors were locked and alarmed, but fortunately the back doors weren't. On opening a door to the soil pit 9which is where the birds droppings collect) we found two hens, who had somehow escaped from their cages and dropped through the slatted wooden floors. Under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act, it is an offence for the owner of any animal to omit to do any act which may cause unnecessary suffering (sic) - ie. check the soil pits once a day - yet it is a common occurrence in the battery system for hens to dehydrate to death, just like these two hens were. It is what is referred to by factory farmers as "acceptable losses".
We realised that we had within our grasp a chance to prosecute the nuns, but it all had to be managed properly, so we decided to leave the two hens there until we could get some legal advice.
We proceeded on with what we had originally set out to do - video the scenes inside the unit. 3 of us climbed 10ft up through an old disused sliding door and into one of the hen houses. What we saw was nothing short of barbarity: Row upon row of wire cages crammed full of hens - the din was unbearable as was the stench.
In the pasty the Mother Superior has stated "Our birds are quite happy they sit in their cages and sing all day long" - she is a liar. The video which we took confirms this.
We left as quickly and as quietly as we had arrived and came back to Northampton to watch the video and discuss what we would do next. We decided to contacy Rorke Garfield, Chief Officer of National Animal Rescue Association, who is something of an experet in dealing with cruelty cases.
One of us went up with him to the battery unit and kept surveillance on it for over 30 hours. In that time no one (except us, of course) went near those two dying hens. Rorke reported this clear breach of the criminal law to the chief inspector of Daventry police station, who duly sent a P.C. up to look into the matter. In front of the P.C. and Rorke the Mother Superior stated that they check the soil pit for hens every 2-3 days, that's probably another lie but even so the law dictates that checks must be made daily. The two hens were rescued by Rorke and were taken away to be checked over by a vet. Both hens weighed less than 3lb each whereas they should have been expected to weigh approximately 5 pounds.
The matter was left in the hands of the police who then passed it on to the R.S.P.C.A. who decided to take no action at all. They didn't even give them an official caution (the legal equivalent to a slap on the wrists) WHY???
They've got the clear cut evidence that would ensure a successful prosecution, yet they've allowed the nuns to get off scott-free. Yet another example of there being one law for us, and one law for them. Them being - factory farmers, vivisectors etc.
Did you know that under the 1954 protection of birds act it is an offence to keep any bird in a cage where it cannot spread its wings? But the powerful factory farming lobby saw to it that animal welfare and the law of the land didn't interfere with their profit margins, and so they added a clause to the act - except poultry.
If we can raise the neccessary funds, we hope to take out a private prosecution against the nuns, bearing in mind that this issue about hens dying in the excrement pits, due to sheer callousness and neglect is an indictment against the whole battery system.
Reproduced with thanks.

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