Last Wednesday morning, a tractor trailer carrying live chickens to what Purdue Farms euphemistically calls its “harvest facility” overturned on a Delaware highway, and most of its already doomed cargo spilled onto the pavement. After hearing about the early-morning crash, members of Liberation Philadelphia, an animal rights organization, arrived at the scene to try to look for survivors in the wreckage.
“It was just a horror story out there,” Mary Kate Fain of Liberation Philadelphia told the Milford Chronicle. “There were just body parts everywhere. It smelled like a slaughterhouse. There was blood and guts everywhere. We were pretty sure no one was left. But there was a patch of woods where we saw something.”
First, the driver of the tractor-trailer—the only non-chicken involved in the incident—“wasn’t seriously hurt,” according to NBC Philadelphia. Next, Liberation Philadelphia quickly learned that there wasn’t a lot that they could do, at least not until they saw one chicken hidden in some brush beside the highway. Fain realized that the bird had some significant injuries, so she immediately transported him to the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, shortly after taking some Instagram photos and giving him (or her) a name. “June was named after the main character in The Handmaid’s Tale, who also fled captors by hiding amongst trees,” the organization wrote in a photo caption.
Despite the best efforts of the veterinarians who performed emergency surgery, the bird died from his injuries 36 hours later. (Liberation Philadelphia quickly raised more than $1,300 on GoFundMe to pay for the chicken’s hospital stay). If you thought that’s where this story ends, then you clearly do not understand Liberation Philadelphia’s commitment to its “love-based movement” of “bearing witness into the heart of the city.”
On Friday night, around eight members of the organization gathered outside the Purdue Farms facility in Milford, Delaware, holding signs and demanding justice for June, the other winged victims of the road accident, and the chickens that have yet to be killed by the poultry giant.
“The vigil was in memory of all the chickens who were killed in the crash, and who are treated cruelly by Perdue and animal agriculture every day,” Fain told MUNCHIES. "June's story highlights just how little Perdue Farms cares about the billions of animals they kill for meat each year. At the vigil, we honored June by telling his story, lighting candles and setting up a memorial. We also called for Perdue to take accountability for their actions.”
According to the Courier Express, the organization is also demanding that Purdue Farms pay for June’s veterinary treatment and that they sufficiently care for any other survivors before turning them over to a chicken sanctuary “where they can live out their lives with dignity, respect and freedom.” (The Express also referred to the theme of the vigil as “Chicken Lives Matter,” which...no. Just no. “This was a headline created by a local Delaware news station without our knowledge,” Fain confirmed. “The campaign is called #JusticeForJune and at no time have we used [that] phrase. It would diminish the Black Lives Matter movement and the very real issue of systemic racism that black people face in this country.")
A Purdue Farms spokesperson released a statement, mostly reminding everyone that the company has a totally different idea of what “caring for” injured chickens means. “In the event of an unlikely traffic accident, one of our Poultry Care Officers, along with trained associates, are dispatched to the scene to recover and assess the chickens, humanely euthanizing injured birds to prevent suffering,” Andrea Staub told the Chronicle. “We want anyone who finds one of our chickens to notify us immediately so that we can properly care for the animal.”
Liberation Philadelphia will hold a public funeral for June in the city’s Rittenhouse Square later this week. “If you are able [...] to pay your respects to June, it would be hugely appreciated,” the group wrote on Facebook. On Monday, it also launched a Change.org petition, urging New Castle County Sheriff, Samuel D. Pratcher, Jr., to enforce the state's animal cruelty statute against Perdue Farms “for the cruel mistreatment, neglect, and abandonment” of June.