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Big Bird, Bigger Heart

If you’ve read my books, been on a Catskill tour, or been part of our family for a while, you know we have a mantra of sorts that goes, “In the ways that truly matter, we are all the same.” Well, this little video of JR, our heartthrob, is a perfect illustration of our perspective.

JR is a “broiler bird,” the terrible name given to chickens by the industry that grows them to feed us. I use “grow” rather than “raise” because “raise” implies a level of care and nurturing that doesn’t exist in corporate farming. When we raise someone, we understand the relationship between our ongoing care of them and who that person or being becomes: there’s a correlation between the two. “Grow, ” with its emphasis on the end product, is the accurate term for the process of turning animals into food products.

There’s also a correlation between how corporate farming grows its products –– its chickens, pigs, cows, fish, etc. –– and the outcome for the animals. To be blunt, they’re subjected to a level of pain, stress, suffering, and ultimately blinding terror in their final moments that most of us wouldn’t wish on a depraved criminal. And yet we allow the barbarism, the torture, the mercilessness of it all to continue.

And what of the lucky few who find their way to sanctuaries –– those who somehow escape their intended fate?

Take a look at JR, friends: he’s one of them.

Look at the size of his body –– all 17 pounds of it. And look at the redness in his inflamed and painful joints. No chicken is supposed to weigh 17 pounds, but because JR was part of an industry that’s concerned only about profits and market share, he was engineered and drugged to grow huge, quickly.

And so, now, an animal who should rightfully live a couple decades but who at just three years old is considered ancient, suffers from respiratory issues, circulatory issues, and profound joint pain. His gait is awkward, and he spends most of his waking hours lying down, because movement is so very hard … and it hurts. 

But JR still lives large, and that is why we wanted to share this video. Despite industry-induced limitations, JR loves life, seizing every opportunity available to him to play, to love, to find adventure. He pecks at his toy xylophone in the kitchen; he squawks in delight at something we can’t see, awkwardly hauling ass across the floor, and he’s endlessly and lovingly tolerant of an elaborate health care regimen. Animal care director Kelly Mullins calls him “a hilarious and delightful imp.” And while all he’s doing in this video is responding to massage: look at how much he loves it.

Just because we live in a world that refuses to see food animals as individuals with their own personalities, desires, and delightful quirks doesn’t mean that this isn’t who they are. In the ways that truly matter, friends, we really are all the same. Thanks to The Great Rooster JR for the constant reminders.

And now a reminder from me: if you’re “an animal lover” who hasn’t transitioned to veganism, there’s no greater way to align your lifestyle with your ethics. Catskill Animal Sanctuary can help: check for our cooking classes, recipes and our upcoming mentoring program.




*Director's Corner, Rescues


2 replies on “Big Bird, Bigger Heart”

  1. Love seeing all your posts. Fabulous work that you guys are doing…your kindness and dedication touches my heart….

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