Friday, 16 May 2014

M62 Crash - lorry carrying 6000 chickens. The real story.

This was widely reported yesterday, with some newspapers (like The Mirror) turning in to a bit of a joke.   There was one small glimmer reported later, which was that a nearby dog rescue place managed to rescue some of the chickens.

The reports, of course, didn't go into much detail. 

Dogs4Rescue posted their account of the story on their Facebook page.  I've copied and pasted it here. There is also a video.

So many people have asked what happened and reports have got it wrong or missed the point so here is the account as it was:

6800 live chickens in the small lorry. Driver hit the central reservation and upon impact almost all the crates came off the lorry. We guess we saved about 3000 hens. Lots dead at the scene or dying on site but the unreported and most shocking thing of all was that many more were loaded back onto the wagons and put back into their crates and still sent for slaughter.

So how did we become involved?:
We live right next to the M62 motorway and it happened only meters from our house.
We woke at 4am with a huge bang and the dogs started going crazy. We just assumed it was a blow out on the motorway but then could hear a noise that sounded like people screaming. We went running over and once motorway side what we saw will be hard to forget. All the birds were screaming and it was deafening. Cages were up the embankment and scattered across the motorway, birds were loose and walking all over the carriageway, some running in panic. Many were clearly already dead but there were dying birds all over the place with horrific injuries that will haunt us forever.

Two by two we just started carrying the birds off the motorway and up the embankment to our field for safety. Turning around to realize the extent of the numbers we were facing caused an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

Police and highways were moving the birds to the embankment and then we were ferrying them up to the field – a lamp post had been taken down and live wires were all over the ground so we needed to be careful but traffic was clearly going nowhere.

Only one person got out of the car to help and took 2 chickens in his car, the others just watched as we carried on for hours. I had to ask a highways worker to lend me his socks as I was getting so badly stung by nettles – he very kindly did!

What the papers got incorrect:
They said that those that didn’t die at the scene got to safety, some quoting 5000, but that is not true. Hundreds were stuck in the cages and with other dead birds. So many cages were mangled because of the crash that we couldn’t pull the drawers out and so we had to move on to others – another thing we won’t forget.

Feet and limbs were getting trapped if we tried to pull crates apart to start getting them out and the dead birds in each crate were blocking us pulling the others out to safety it felt like a losing battle at times.

When the police realized we had started emptying crates, to free the trapped birds, we were ordered to leave the area. Of course we didn’t as there were birds still everywhere and no one else was helping but a line of policemen and highways people stood and watched for hours as we struggled to rescue the others. We are assuming they were not allowed to get involved as these girls would have been someone’s property.

All help stopped as soon as the chickens were no longer on the carriageway, the priority clearly being to move the traffic along. Then they said they wanted to open the motorway and we had to leave. We protested due to live birds still meters from the traffic and everywhere but they insisted so obviously we ignored it and carried on.

Then the realization that a local poultry farm had been called and men in blue suits and white face masks suddenly appeared to take the live ones back off for slaughter was a devastating blow. We had worked for at least 2 hours by this point and that’s when the worst part came. After all they had been through they were being dragged up by their feet and thrown brutally back into their tiny crates screaming in pain and wedged in. We were heart broken and stunned by what we saw.

We managed to get footage of it, but we had to be silent while doing so and try and film undetected. If there had been any confrontation we would have been removed from site and so unable to continue rescuing and we just couldn’t take that chance.

The sadness is that after all they had been through, the ones we couldn’t save, were still sent to the slaughter house to experience that terrifying ordeal to top off their pitiful existence.

What shocked us to the core though was when the poultry men were pulling out the drawers to fill their crates for slaughter. They dragged crates out which had heads and legs trapped ignoring the screams – proceeding to repeatedly ram drawers back and forth in order to sever the chickens that were trapping it and catch those inside still alive. This went on longer than I can tell you, at least 30 times for each drawer they were trying to get out. What we were witnessing was torture. The anger and trauma I feel about this contempt for any life I am unable to put into words.

They were throwing those they thought wouldn’t have long to live onto the piles of dead chickens and we were picking as many as we could up again to carry them off back to at least die in the grass as though free.

Suddenly, surprisingly and due to a combination of our hounding of them with the camera and then seeing the sheer determination to battle against them and save as many as we could, the guys all of a sudden decided to stop filling their crates and start helping us save them instead.

It is ironically thanks to the workers from the poultry farm that the vast majority of these birds survived. They gathered them up much quicker as there were so many of them. They herded them up the embankment and helped us get them over into the field. We were so grateful yet there was little if any communication in words as they didn’t seem to understand us.

It was a roller coaster of emotion and confusion going from being disgusted with them to being moved by their strenuous efforts to help us. I’m not sure they knew what we were doing or why but as they watched us pick them up so gently and in amazement we saw a huge change in how they treated them. I will never understand why things changed but I have never been so grateful.

As for the driver – he was having a cigarette, cool as you can imagine, looking at us as though we were crazy. I asked why he was not helping but he didn’t understand. I picked up the poorest bald bird I have ever seen with not even one feather and showed him, he expressed no emotion whatsoever. It was very hard to keep it all together.

The rescue started at 4am continued until late in the evening, the last hen having been collected from motorway side at 9pm. The rescue involved the help of so many kind people who carried on ensuring we got every last one we could see. The motorway had reopened hours before and all workforces from the scene had long gone; leaving us all to clear up the danger.

We ended the day cut to pieces from brambles, barbed wire and all sorts, stung and bitten but happy to think they all have a chance of a normal life which would never have been if it weren’t for the crash.

11.40pm Wednesday 14th May the last people turned up to get chickens. First thing Thursday morning and we were inundated again and we could probably have rehomed them 5 times over.

Those who came to help are the heroes in all of this. If it were not for them we would not have anywhere near the numbers saved that we did:
Thanks to the first call, our friend Deb who dropped everything, having no idea what she had let herself in for. When she got here she just started picking up chickens and carrying them to safety no questions asked.

Thanks to Lucky hens rescue who took hundreds of chickens, but more importantly rapidly sent the message out to which people flocked to help! Lucky Hens Rescue and other volunteers turned up and in the baking sun carried hundreds of chickens to safety, syringed them honey water individually, set up a chicken hospital for the injured or those going into shock. Incredible.

Thanks to our immediate neighbours who helped all day with everything, even bringing pizza and beers at the end. For that we feel so lucky.

Pat and Claire – thank you so much for looking after all the dogs for us which is no easy task keeping them calm during the chaos.

To those who volunteered, followed, called, took birds, offered help, shared the story and spread the news we are so very grateful. Everyone amazed us with their stamina and determination. It was an extremely difficult task. They worked without food or water throughout the day and we don’t even know their names.

Heather Cake – last helper to leave at 11pm exhausted after hours of saving the girls one by one. And to all those I had never met before and whose names I will never know thank you from the bottom of our hearts. All these people have restored our faith in humanity.

Finally, we can only assume it’s because people can’t see what these birds go through that these conditions still exist. Please buy free range, do not buy battery eggs and continue to fund this incredible suffering.

We can only hope that this raises awareness of the ability to rehome ex battery hens and give them a life after their misery. Please spread the word and let’s show this industry up for the incredible suffering that it really is. If everyone had been there to see this I doubt they could have stomached a chicken supper.
 Video link:

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