The fourth of July is not a holiday especially fraught with meaning to me. I would prefer there to be no fireworks, my friends are scattered around the world, and the family I’m close to is a hefty plane ride away, so I don’t have a big social event to mark the day with. I’m a cynical type of person, so the thought of “Independence Day” makes me think of all the people who aren’t free, and the national anthem makes me wonder how we, as a nation, can fool ourselves into thinking that we have ever attempted peaceful means of conflict resolution when the anthem that we sing and hear at every baseball game glorifies war and destruction. That’s what I think of.
So more than a week after the fact, I link to an Australian’s blog post for the 4th, which quotes Howard Zinn, and says it all so well: Luke’s 4th of July post.
Instead of giving into my cynicism, however, this year I celebrated the independence of chickens on Independence Day. Specifically the chickens at Eastern Shore Sanctuary. These chickens have been liberated from all manner of exploitations. Some come from the chicken farms that litter that part of Maryland. Some come from hatching projects, or some mysterious “science project” at a university. Many are former fighting roosters. Some are actually ducks, cats or dogs. Because what does someone think to do if they have a needy cat or dog they’ve found that needs rescuing? They take it to “the chicken women.”
Surely if you rescue chickens, you’ll rescue cats and dogs too, right?
Well, of course.
So I spent the day with Kate and pattrice, and all the chickens, ducks, cats and dogs, cleaning, weeding, and talking. To say that we spent the day there helping out would be accurate, but not complete. We really did celebrate.
It is important to me to connect with these curious individuals who are so filled with personality and so overlooked by the average person. It is important to me to see that yes, some chickens (and ducks and cats and dogs) are saved in a world that overwhelmingly sees so little value in them, in their lives, beyond what they can produce.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a selfish thing for me. I need that sanctuary, and others like it, almost as much as the animals need it. I don’t have it in me to start a sanctuary of my own, but I do what I can to make sure that I am supporting some of the sanctuaries, with money, or time, or both, or something else altogether. This support I offer is for them, but it is for me also.
So helping out is a celebration. They are here! They are alive! And against the background of their crowing, clucking, humming, scratching, wing flapping, we cleaned out one of the chicken barns and weeded part of the chicken yard, and talked. And talked and talked. That is a celebration as well.
I’m guessing we all have differences in how we view the world, activism, the movement. Yet it all comes together, as we dedicate our time and sweat to the chickens, to where our views converge. And so we celebrated the liberation of chickens, while recognizing that these are the few, the lucky, the brave. The chickens are the focus, and they act as our focus.
Happy Chicken Independence Day, a few days late.