Turlock – The Largest Animal Neglect Case in U.S. History
Turlock: the documentary chronicles the rescue of chickens from the largest animal neglect case in U.S. history. When Northern California animal sanctuary Animal Place finds out a factory farm in nearby Turlock has closed, and more than 50,000 hens have been abandoned and left to die without food or water, a team of professionals and volunteers spring into action to save as many lives as they can. Against considerable odds, considerable stakes, and a dramatic standoff with local authorities that leaves them powerless as they witness tremendous animal cruelty, neglect, and suffering, the heroic rescuers including scores of community volunteers, work night and day for several days to save over 4,000 hens.
The film also raises timely questions about how we view non-human animals and modern industrial egg farming, a living nightmare for hundreds of millions of hens in the U.S. alone. Whether caged, cage-free, or free-range, these smart, social, affectionate animals are denied all natural behaviors, experience fear and stress, and suffer from cancer, injuries and chronic diseases. The film also introduces several chickens that were lucky enough to be adopted into happy homes, where their unique personalities are allowed to blossom.
Animal Place is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989. It is one of the oldest and largest sanctuaries for farmed animals in the U.S. In addition to its permanent sanctuary nestled on 600 acres in Grass Valley, California, it operates a 60-acre adoption center to place needy farmed animals into permanent homes. Animal Place provides refuge to hundreds of neglected farmed animals, and in just the last three years, has rescued more than 12,000 former egg-laying hens.
Film Length: 50 minutes
Film Premier: April 2013
Quotes from the Film
“The vet had estimated that 18,000 birds had already starved to death.”
“Their whole life they have lived in a cage, they only know wire floors, never have felt the sun, they are not allowed to move or spread their wings—this is their whole existence for two years before they are killed.”
“You could smell the ammonia coming out of the sheds, and the beginnings of decay from the birds who had been trapped and were sick and dying.”
“The local animal control agency had never seen such massive cruelty. We watched as they were gassing the birds, and it was so frustrating because we had all these trailers ready to rescue the birds.”
“The solution of these state officials was to use big garbage bins, and throw in 50 hens at a time, then cover the bins, and pipe in carbon dioxide to kill them.”
“They were being treated as trash.”
“There were dump trucks just full of dead birds, going to the dump.”
“You would never, ever treat dogs or cats this way. It was just heartbreaking.”
“They are murdering live beings that have already been through hell, and they’re saying you can’t do anything about it?? Morality dictates you have to try. You have a moral mandate to save their lives.”
“When we were finally given custody of these hens, there was just this feeling of overwhelming joy. We weren’t going to take no for an answer, these hens had no advocates, we were going to be a voice for these hens.”
“Most hens were at death’s door.”
“We were running out of space, we had reached more than our capacity. We reached 2,000 birds very early in the 2nd day. But I couldn’t say no. You just need to get them all out—just get as many as you can out—and I’ll worry about the money and staffing later.”
“We were all running on no sleep. Many hens died as soon as they started eating, they just shut down. Our triage center administered constant medications, and fluids—you’re trying to save these animals—but no matter how much care you’re going to give them, or love, many were still going to die.”
“We lost almost 400 birds through our rescue. All the volunteers had to see an enormous amount of death. We just didn’t know what to do.”
“Their health had been so compromised, they were so badly damaged before we got them. That the best we could do was to give them a painless death. We knew we would have a fairly high mortality.”
“Out of 50,000 birds, we rescued about 4,500 of them. That leaves over 45,000 birds in four days at just one facility that died—suffering, starving to death, they were gassed and still died suffering. It’s like a war. We were building mass graves. They were casualties of violence and massacre. A war against their very existence.”
“The work load was immense. We worked 14-16 hours a day.”
“Day 3 and 4 they started expressing their individual personalities. They started to scratch, and dust-bathe. They knew innately how to do it. To watch that slow progression of confined birds—to becoming individuals. Taking them out of horrible cruelty, neglect, never allowed to express themselves, their natural behaviors—they become who they were supposed to be all along.”
“The public really stepped up to the plate – not only did they volunteer, they donated, they helped so much. They really stood up for chickens. Since there were so many birds, we had to invite the community to be part of the rescue, and the adoption.”
“We had to screen and interview adopters. People adopted these hens from all over the U.S. Adopters had to sign a contract that they will not sell the animal, eat the animal, they would provide any needed veterinary care, and just love the animal as a pet.”
“I adopted nine Turlock hens. I wanted to do something to help. Chickens were so much like a cat or a dog, just like a pet. They were naturally cheerful creatures, they were just a total delight all the time.”
“When I took my first hen to the doctor, I could no longer justify eating meat. I stopped eating chicken. There’s so much selfishness in the thinking of eating animals. I think of all the unique personalities that were lost, it’s just so overwhelming.” ~ Adopter
“The best way to help the animals—is to stop eating them altogether, stop eating their flesh, stop eating their eggs, their milk—just adopt a vegan plant-based diet.”
About Industrial Egg-Laying Hens
- Most of the rescued battery-caged hens were White Leghorns, the most common birds in the egg-laying industry. They are bred to lay 3-5 times the eggs that they should. Instead of laying the normal 20-40 eggs per year, these artificially selected, genetically-modified hens lay 3-5 times more eggs laying 300-325 eggs per year.
- The side effects of this abnormal high production, is that the hens have enormous rates of ovarian and reproductive cancer. They have very brittle bones from making egg shells for so many eggs. Their eggs get stuck inside their bodies, their bodies just give up and stop working and are exhausted, they cannot produce all these eggs. Instead of living a normal 15 years, the hens are spent in one year — for the cruel egg industry.
- Hens don’t make eggs so that we can eat them, they make eggs to raise their young. To reproduce young chicks. That is their only purpose, but we force them to unnaturally lay eggs for humans and steal them from them.
About Cage-Free and Free-Range Farms
- Behind every single egg—150 million male chicks are killed every year. Male chicks don’t produce eggs, they don’t grow at the rate that “broiler meat chickens” grow, so they are considered trash and waste to the industry. Male chicks are always killed. They are killed by being ground up alive or gassed to death while alive.
- Female chicks are routinely de-beaked since they are housed in overcrowded conditions. Because they have blood-vessel and nerve-rich beaks, de-beaking or cutting off their beaks is very painful for them. As a result, their beaks cause them chronic pain for their entire lives. De-beaking is always done without pain relief and is routinely done in the industry. This happens on cage-free farms too.
- All the hens are killed when their egg production declines—they are slaughtered for meat.
- At a certain age—just a fraction of their natural lifespan—all farmed animals are sent to the exact same place, slaughterhouses where they are murdered in the exact same way. There’s nothing compassionate or humane about violently ending another beings’ life. There’s nothing humane about the cage-free or free-range industry.
On February 11, 2013, The Stanislaus County District Attorney filed felony animal cruelty charges against A&L Poultry’s owners and operators Andy Cheung and Lien Diep. They face up to 3 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. A civil lawsuit was filed by Schiff/Hardin and Animal Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Animal Place and two other sanctuaries to hold A&L Poultry accountable for their crimes.
Watch The Film
Watch on First Spark Media
Watch on You Tube
Watch on Vimeo
Read More About the Turlock Animal Cruelty Case
Learn more: www.turlockrescue.org
Lawsuit in Largest California Farmed Animal Rescue in History Moves Forward, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
A&L Poultry Animal Cruelty is Only The Tip of the Iceberg, Turlock Journal
Executive Producer: Shani Campbell
Director, Editor, Camera Operator: Keegan Kuhn
Original score by xTrue Naturex
Still photos courtesy of Marji Beach and The Modesto Bee
Produced in association with First Spark Media & Animal Place
Featuring the Rescue Efforts Of: