After a Denver-based animal rights activist group claimed in a weekend video that it “rescued” three chickens from a Berthoud farm Sunday, the farm’s owner said she would have sold chickens to the group for $16 each.
Denver Baby Animal Save posted a video to its Facebook page documenting its actions Sunday. Members of the group said they took three chickens that were raised to be processed as poultry fromLong Shadow Farm, 101 Bothun Road, which specializes in raising free-range chickens and lamb and offers poultry processing services to other chicken owners.
Kristin Ramey, who owns Long Shadow Farm with her husband, said in a Monday morning phone interview that a small group of Denver Baby Animal Save members entered the farm Sunday posing as volunteers who wanted to help with the poultry processing chores planned for Sunday.
The farm planned to process about 100 birds for slaughter, Ramey said.
Once the animal activists were on the farm, Ramey said, they asked her 8-year-old daughter to show them a building where the chickens were being stored in cages, then took a rooster belonging to a customer of the farm as well as two birds raised on the farm.
Three other chickens were also set free from their cages by the group, Ramey said, but that trio of birds was rounded up by the farm after the activists left the farm’s property with the other three chickens.
Ramey said that as the chicken thieves made their way off the property, a group of 30 to 40 people wearing matching Denver Baby Animal Save shirts appeared at the end of the farm’s driveway, linked arms and began singing and chanting.
“It wasn’t Kumbaya they were singing. It was a little threatening,” Ramey said.
She said she called the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the situation after some of the group members stepped onto her property while singing. A volunteer on the farm reportedly took pictures of some of the animal rights activists’ license plates on the road outside the farm, Ramey said.
David Moore, public information officer for LCSO, said deputies are currently conducting an investigation into multiple felony trespassing, attempted theft of livestock and theft of livestock allegations. Deputies made contact with many individuals who were unwanted on the property and refused to leave, he said.
“The irony of this is if they wanted to buy chickens and set them free somewhere, I would have sold them chickens,” Ramey said.
Normally she sells a processed bird ready for slaughter for $16.
“For $160, they could have bought 10.”
Even if the animal rights group could have saved more chickens by purchasing them, the group opposes buying into a system that hurts animals, said Aidan Cook, a participant in Sunday’s chicken “rescue” protest and spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group that works alongside Denver Baby Animal Rescue. Cook is also a music composition student at University of Colorado in Boulder.
“It may seem in the short term we could save more animals by paying for them. The truth is, there are so many animals in this system, we could never buy them all out,” Cook said in a phone interview.
The chickens the animal rights group claims to have “saved” were only rounded up and caged Sunday morning for planned processing, Ramey said, as the farm animals are raised outside free-range on the farm.
Humanely raising animals with cage-free tactics before their slaughter is not enough in the eyes of the animal rights activists, Cook said.
“We are not animal welfare activists. We are fighting for a world in which all animals have legal protection and have the right to live happy, safe and free without being killed,” Cook said.
He added that leaders of the two animal rights groups believe they can persuade legislators to make a constitutional amendment protecting animals from slaughter in the country within 40 years.
Cook said he attempted to negotiate for the release of the Long Shadow Farm animals with farm employees, and that when his request was denied, fellow animal rights activists carried the three chickens off the farm.
Ramey said that one of the taken chickens that belonged to a customer is a European breed specifically meant to be born in the spring and slaughtered in the fall, as it cannot withstand winter temperatures in Colorado.
“If they don’t have appropriate plans for that chicken, it will freeze to death this winter. Being humanely slaughtered is a much more compassionate way for an animal to die,” Ramey said. “The ones they took might have a decent life for a short time.”
Cook said Monday that two of the chickens taken off the farm have reportedly been given veterinary care for a respiratory condition.
“These are chickens that would have been killed within hours of our arrival had they not been rescued. For the farm to be expressing concern about their welfare at this point seems a little strange,” Cook said.
The chickens may end up in activists’ homes, including the rooster that cannot withstand winter temperatures.
“We have many activists in our communities who live with rescued chickens in their home or other rescued farm animals. We have many people in our community who are knowledgeable about animal care. Our concern is truly so they can be in the best health so they can live a long life,” Cook said.
In the Facebook video that Baby Animal Save posted Sunday, group members explain why they participated in the protest of the farm and chicken theft while often personifying the birds. At the video’s conclusion, three chickens are seen in the hands of three group members on camera.
“My name is Jonathan, and I took part in the save today because it is our duty. It is what we are required to do for these individuals who don’t want to suffer and don’t want to die,” one man said in the video.
“This is the Denver Baby Animal Save, and we will rescue animals until every animal is free,” an off-screen voice is heard saying at the end of the five minute video.
Concealing identities of those who perform animal “rescues” is not in line with the animal rights groups’ ethics, Cook said.
“We don’t think it’s criminal activity,” Cook said. “Our argument is that this is a matter of legal necessity. One reading of the law might see this differently. Even if it is seen as illegal, if we were to hide our identities, that would be saying we’re not willing to call our actions morally right.”
Between April and November each year, Long Shadow Farm tries to schedule at least two weekends per month for processing chickens and inviting other chicken owners to the farm to observe and learn the procedures, Ramey said.
She added that at least one Denver Baby Animal Save member had come to the farm in the past, again disguised as a volunteer. His true identity was revealed to the farm’s ownership by his behavior, though.
“He didn’t pluck a single feather,” Ramey said. “Some people get a little squeamish. It’s hard, you’re killing an animal.”
She contends her farming practices are healthy for the animals she raises.
“We specialize in pastured poultry and grass-fed lamb, and occasionally dabble in preserving food and processing meat on the farm. We love happy, healthy, local food, raised humanely and with care,” Long Shadows Farm’s website says.
Ramey suggested the animal rights group avoids acting criminally against large, corporate slaughterhouses because they are more secure facilities.
A member of Direct Action Everywhere entered a Boulder market in February and placed flowers on meat in a display case. The teenager later pleaded guilty to one count of tampering. And last week, the organization said that an FBI visit to Erie-based Luvin’ Arms animal sanctuary was related to the “rescue” of two piglets form a Utah pig farm.
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