The documentary film Turlock the documentary (www.turlockrescue.org) chronicles the rescue of chickens from the largest animal neglect case in U.S. history. When Northern California animal sanctuary Animal Place (www.animaplace.org) found out an egg farm in nearby Turlock had closed, and more than 50,000 hens had been abandoned and left to die without food or water, Animal Place’s team and volunteers leaped into action to save thousands of lives. Despite considerable odds and a dramatic standoff with local authorities, the heroic rescuers know they could not leave these fragile beings behind to suffer even if it meant risking their own freedom.
Turlock: the documentary 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 quirky, social, loving animals are denied all natural behaviors, experience fear and stress, and suffer from diseases. The film also introduces several chickens lucky enough to be adopted into happy homes, where their unique personalities are allowed to blossom.
We spoke to Marji Beach, Animal Place’s education director, about the rescue and the documentary film:
Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest sanctuaries for farmed animals in the U.S., provides refuge to hundreds of neglected farmed animals. But nothing can compare with the experience in Turlock.
The Turlock rescue was extreme in its scope and scale, as the largest rescue of farmed animals in California history and the second largest in U.S. history. Approximately 20,000 of those hens had already starved before we even knew they existed.
It was emotionally and physically extreme. We saw firsthand the treatment of the animals on that egg farm – and knew that was standard treatment for more than 250 million hens.
It would take hours of negotiations (executive director Kim Sturla never gave up) while we felt indescribable helplessness watching birds being gassed before our eyes.
And then word came down that we could save birds. Magical words, really.
While the rescue took its toll emotionally and physically on our staff and volunteers, we took from it the knowledge that large-scale rescues are not beyond the realm of possibility.
In fact, a year after Turlock in 2013, Animal Place rescued 3,000 hens from a commercial egg farm in California. A generous donor funded an air transport of 1,150 of the hens to east coast sanctuaries. In the last few years, we have rescued more than 12,000 former egg-laying hens.
Chickens are the most exploited and abused species in the world and hens on egg farms suffer immensely. It doesn’t have to be that way. By making compassionate choices, all of us have the ability to make a difference. And in our view, the kindest and most just choice we can make to help other animals is to simply stop eating them or their by-products, like eggs.
"Turlock: the documentary" is available for grassroots groups, meetups, clubs, and individual activists who want to host screenings in their communities. Whether it’s a public event at the local library, or a small gathering at home, we want as many non-vegans as possible to see it and connect in some small way to the chickens and rescuers in the film.
Inviting people to watch a film is effective and easy. (What's easier than getting people to show up for movie night?) We are also sending out literature, vegan food coupons and information, and other goodies to help hosts plan a successful screening. See www.turlockrescue.org to participate.