I volunteered to do one leg of a rooster transport that happened this weekend. The final destination was again Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary, just like last week’s little red hen, but the starting point was in the middle of rural Virginia, about 4 hours from the DC metro area. I volunteered to take that leg, and Gary volunteered to drive them out to eastern shore from here.
The people at the animal shelter were very nice. Sort of curious, perhaps, at someone doing 8 hours of driving for chickens, but very grateful at the same time. And it isn’t that they didn’t understand at all, either – it was something of a surprise to me to see that they seemed very compassionate towards these roosters, rescued from a cockfighting operation. They were perhaps even a bit attached to them. They certainly seemed invested in their rescue. I suppose I expected attitudes like I saw at the shelter last week, with regards to the little red hen. I have a feeling that this past month with these abused roosters has impacted the people who spent time with them.
The roosters had arrived at the shelter on December 22, and from what the shelter employees said, they’d gotten much easier to handle. In the beginning, it was near impossible. Now, just a month later, the employees were cautious, but it all looked easy, from a spectator standpoint.
No, it was something else that was difficult.
After I pulled around to the back, to the trailer where the roosters were being kept, they opened the door, and said “come on in. You just need to choose the 8 you’ll be taking.”
It was like a punch to the gut. I probably should have realized ahead of time that this could happen, but I hadn’t. I hadn’t thought about what it meant that Eastern Shore was able to take 8 but that there had been 39 rescued.
I had to choose 8.
At this point there are no homes for the other 31, and we know what that means. It means that in effect, I was choosing who would live, and who would likely die.
I felt a bit sick. How do you make that choice? I was in shock, hoping that they, the roosters, would somehow tell me, would talk to me.
And so when one of them did talk, quiet little “bok bok bok” sound, I said “okay, him.”
The others, they all made eye contact, they had that look in their eyes…you know the one, the one that says they want to live? That look.
I looked around for ones that looked maybe more sad or … something. But a rooster in a cage? They look sad, it is a given. Mostly they were quiet, watchful, waiting. They all were beautiful to me, they all needed saving. I was paralyzed by the decisions I had to make.
One of the workers, pointed to one of the roosters and said, “this is the meanest one.” So I took him. Of course I took him.
Somehow I chose 8. They put the ones I’d chosen in carriers, we loaded them in to my truck, I signed the paperwork, and off I went down the road.
It didn’t take long before I had tears streaming down my face for the 31 I’d left behind.
Forgetting for a moment all the careful logical arguments that we store up for those times when people question and/or attack our choices, and running on pure emotion and instinct, I can say only this: looking into the eyes of these brave birds, I simply can’t comprehend that anyone else could look into their eyes and act with anything less than compassion.
For those of us who have that compassion and live our lives careful to avoid harm wherever we can, the constant frustration is that no matter how many we rescue, it is always a drop in the bucket. It is always a small percentage of those needing to be rescued.
And for any who think I’m taking about just chickens or just non-human animals, I’m not. The same is true whether we’re talking about humans or non-humans. There is always more abuse than rescue.
And so I had to choose 31 to leave behind. And my heart breaks.