If you have ever said "It's for the birds," I am sure it was
meant to convey some sort of disdain. But my post is literally
for the birds, whom I respect and even love- like the little
sparrows who flit from tree to tree on my street. In reality,
I try to love and respect all of God's creatures- t hough I admit
to having problems with the reptilian and insect worlds.
When it comes to birds - even they have some frightening
members like the vultures or buzzards as they are sometimes
called. But then Hinckley, Ohio celebrates their return each
year on the Ides of March -heralding it as a sign of a much
anticipated return of spring after the rigors of our cold Ohio
And then too, some recognize buzzards as the vacuum cleaners
of nature- disposing of road kill which can fowl the environment
if not removed. However, I was saddened to read that in a
part of Texas -some of them have also even started killing
calves, baby goats, and lambs.
But this post is not about predator birds. It is a story of
two special birds - Hildy, a rescued turkey who lived happily
at Farm Sanctuary for the greater part of her life and Rafinha-
a much beloved chicken pet who lived with her family in Brazil.
We start with Hildy who this week was being memoralized by Susan Couston of Farm Sanctuary. She died a natural death on March 12,2012. To say her passing this way is rare is an understatement. So few are rescued while millions-or probably more like billions of them are killed each year- not only in America, but in many parts of the meat-eating world. Thankfully though, there is a growing realization that a plant-based diet is not only good for our health, but it is good for the environmnet and the animal world as well.
Recently, I have read that our planet will not be able to sustain
a meat-eating populace in the future. Just imagine that if enough people will turn to a meatless diet, the cafos could be dismantled and the farm animals would once again be free to bask in the sun, breathe fresh air, and move around with their families. A dream-yes! Doable- yes! Of course, it would mean the commitment of a large segment of our population slowly but surely turning to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Some people feel threathened by this thought because they cannot envision life without meat. To them I say -don't worry- there will always be meat for you if you cannot live without it. I was surprised when someone registered this concern that all farm animals would disappear.
There is a beautiful video at the Farm Sanctuary internet site
which shows Hildy -this beautiful white turkey sitting on the
grass by Farm Sanctuary's Susie Couston. What a lucky lady to
become friends with so many of these wonderful farm animal rescues. If I could have a last bucket wish - it would be living close to rescued animals, and in my case, it would be at Happy Trails of Ravenna, Ohio.
To see these rescued turkeys, chickens, pigs, horses, goats, and
sheep up close and personal would be a heavenly experience for
me. Yes, I know- there is a lot of work and cleaning up to do
with animals, but then having had 7 dogs and 35 cats over the
last 40 years, I have spent a lot of time picking up after my dogs
and cleaning litter boxes over and over again. Presently with 8
rescued cats, I am still cleaning litter boxes daily. I recently
lost two beautiful friends - Casey, my dog and Jack, my bunny.
Cleaning up after them was never a problem.
In "Remembering Hildy" Susan reveals that people entertain some misconceptions re turkeys. Among them are that turkeys are lacking in intelligence, t hat they don't have personalities, or
that there is no bonding with them in a meaningful way.
Well, you would have had to tell Hildy this when she was alive.
She would promptly show you that she didn't fit into this
stereotypical thinking re turkey behaviour. Hildy was known
to walk up to people and completely disarm them. They soon
realized that she had a mind, feelings, and that she just
wanted to be your friend. How special is that?
Hildy began life in an industrial hatchery where she lost the
tip of her beak and the ends of her toes to amputation. This
cruelty was done to lesson the incidence of fighting injuries
in this crowded and stressful environment. Aren't we kind? Instead of giving the turkeys more room, they performed those painful amputations which I am sure were done without any type of anesthetic at all.
Despite being permanently blind in one eye because of an
infection, Hildy, nevertheless, weathered this handicap well.
She also overcame the destructive selective breeding practices
which predisposes turkeys to gain excessive weight, and she began to thrive on the special diet provided for her at the sanctuary.
The post does not tell how Hildy was rescued, but once safe at
Farm Sanctuary, it became evident that she was happy there. Susan remarked that she seemed to love life each and every day of the 8 years she spent with them.
Susan even observed that she was sometimes even a bit mischiveous as she would sneak up on the piglets when they were taken to play in the turkey pasture. It became obvious to those who knew her that each day seemed to hold a new and interesting adventure for her.
And probably what is most remarkable about Hildy's life is that
she loved people. She loved having her feathers stroked and
sitting with visitors for hours enjoying their attention. According
to Susan, Hildy was one of the most gregarious turkeys they had
After a comparatively long life for a turkey, Hildy finally succumbed to heart failture- an ailment common to elderly turkeys. She is certainly missed by all who knew her and took care of her. She also leaves behind her best turkey friends -Kima, Rhonda, and Feather. I know that they will miss her as well. We think only humans feel the sadness of separation by death. If so, we are wrong.
Susan wrote that it will be strange not to see Hildy wandering
with her turkey friends beneath the willow tree in the yard by
their barn. And she knows that Hildy's passing is a great loss
for all her friends- animal and human alike. But she also knows
that in remembering Hildy- they will always derive great consolation in the memory that she lived her life among them with great joy. Thank you Farm Sanctuary for that.
RAFINHA. Five years ago Genecira de Oliveira and her daughter helped hatch a fluffy young chick they called Rafinha. Despite not being a typical pet, Rafinha, nevertheless, was much loved by mother and daughter. They accepted her as part of the family, and she even eventually found love and acceptance from the community at large in this largely meat- eating community.
Stephen Messenger who condensed Tree Huggers' account about her on Care2 started his post with a sobering fact: "EACH DAY an estimated 100 million chickens are killed throughout the world, with most meeting an unceremonious end to their unappreciated little lives. For one particular chicken in Brazil, however, whose feathered existence was needlessly cut short recently, quite the opposite is true--not because she was so special, but simply because she was loved."
How wonderful if there would be millions like her - loved for themselves and not for their flesh.
But this beloved family member one day recently was stolen from the Oliveira's home. Despite the family's heartfelt appeals that Rafinha be safely returned, police were only able to track down the perpetrator who reportedly sold the chicken as poultry in exchange for drugs. What a selfish, unfeeling man and the destructive power of drugs.
And in their grief, the Oliveiras decided to organize a symbolic burial for their beloved pet. They knew that some would think this silly, but this did not deter them. And as Genecira told t he local newspaper-"Making the funeral for Rafinha hardly expresses what she represented in our lives in these five years."
Surprisingly, because of the press coverage, the family was joined by 2,000 residents of Patos including the Mayor in a lively funeral procession to pay their last respect to a chicken. Yes, some of the event was at times lighthearted in view of the fact that it took place in a region where eating meat is part of daily life. However, despite this, Rafinha, a little chicken who was loved by her family, would not soon be forgotten. Hopefully, some of the people of Patos may even begin entertaining thoughts of vegetarianism. Yes, it seems a stretch,
but one never knows how the spirit moves.
Roger B posted this comment at the site:
"We've kept chickens (rescued ex-battery hens) for a few years now and they are the most lovable, endearing little creatures- every one of whom deserves their freedom in a safe and caring home. They all have their own special personalities so I'm not surprised by the affection shown for Rafinha."
Thanx Roger. You pretty much summed it up for me and I hope for others as well.