Grande Cache animal lover ‘devastated’ after bear cub euthanized by provincial officials

Groot, a grizzly bear cub discovered by a highway near Grande Cache, was destroyed after a local animal advocate turned it over to provincial wildlife officials. ORG XMIT: nkDgueFEGHZbedIRnR4d EDMONTON


A Grande Cache animal advocate is distraught after an abandoned grizzly bear cub she nursed back to health was destroyed by provincial wildlife officials.

“I was absolutely devastated,” said Brandy Gienger of the Grande Cache Animal Society. “I was heartbroken when I passed him over to the fish and game officers because I knew that he was going to be euthanized.

“I knew that (they) were just telling me what I wanted to hear so they didn’t have to create a scene with someone.”

On May 3, a work crew informed Gienger of an abandoned bear cub along Highway 40 near the Sheep Creek Bridge. The animal society called Alberta Fish and Wildlife, who told Gienger to leave the animal because its mother was probably out hunting.

The bear was still there among the rocks three days later. On the fourth day, the cub was gone, so Gienger assumed it had been picked up by its mother or fish and wildlife.

One day later though, someone called to say the bear was still in the same area by the highway. That evening, they went to collect the cub, who they decided to call Groot.

An Alberta wildlife rescue organization said it would work to rehabilitate the starving animal, and instructed Gienger how to care for him. Gienger kept him in a dark kennel to keep him from becoming habituated to humans, and fed him goat’s milk, which the famished bear cub loved.

Groot, a grizzly bear cub discovered by a highway near Grande Cache, was destroyed after a local animal advocate turned it over to provincial wildlife officials.  EDMONTON

By Thursday, they were ready to send the bear to the rescue centre when they got a call that conservation officers were on their way to collect him.

Gienger said she was reluctant because the bear was hours away from heading to a rescue. But she was assured the officials would “take the best interests” of the bear cub and take care of it.

On Friday morning, an apologetic provincial official told Gienger that the bear had been destroyed because he was severely dehydrated and his organs had stopped functioning properly. That ran counter to what Gienger had seen.

In a statement, Alberta Environment and Parks officials said steps were taken to find a facility that would accept a grizzly bear for permanent care, such as a zoo. However, they were unsuccessful, and said they had no choice to euthanize the “emaciated, dehydrated, lethargic” bear which was “near death.”

“This was a very sad situation, but unfortunately, officials felt the most humane thing to do was to limit the animal’s suffering,” the statement reads. “The decision to humanely euthanize this grizzly bear cub was not made lightly.”

Alberta recently approved a rehabilitation protocol for orphaned black bears, the statement added. However, the “rehabilitation requirements for grizzly bears are different, often requiring specialized care for a longer period of time.”

Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers kill grizzly bear cub near Grande Cache

A rescued grizzly bear cub is seen in this undated handout photo. Concerns are being raised about Alberta’s new policy on rehabilitating bears after a grizzly cub was killed by Fish and Wildlife officers this week. Two women rescued a grizzly bear cub near Grande Cache this week after watching it for five days to see if its mother would return for it. KYLA WOOLLARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS


GRANDE CACHE, Alta. — Concerns are being raised about Alberta’s new policy on rehabilitating orphaned bears after a grizzly cub was killed by wildlife officers this week.

The province lifted a ban on private rehabilitation of cubs last month, but it only applies to black bears.

Two women rescued a grizzly bear cub near Grande Cache this week after watching it for five days to see if its mother would return for it. They went down to the area on Wednesday to check on the bear and found it emaciated, weak and starving.

“We brought it home and fed it some goat’s milk,” said Brandy Gienger, who’s with the Grande Cache Animal Society.

They had two rehabilitation facilities that were willing to take the bear, which they named Grout, but provincial wildlife officers showed up Thursday and took the cub away.

Woollard said they were told Friday that the bear has been put down by the officers.

“They just destroyed him,” said Gienger. “I’m devastated. I am absolutely disgusted with this.”

“They didn’t give him a chance at all.”

Officials with the province said in a statement that they tried to find a zoo that would accept the bear under permanent care, but they weren’t able to find one.

“The bear was emaciated, dehydrated, lethargic, and near death and specialists did not believe it would survive,” said the email. “To limit the bear’s suffering, the bear was euthanized.”

Gienger said the bear was responding well after being fed the goat’s milk.

Her friend, Kyla Woollard, said they’ve heard from the province and hope officials can change the orphaned bear policy to include grizzlies.

“I’m still upset at the fact that something that was so innocent had to lose its life,” she said. “When they passed the law to rehabilitate black bears, I feel like they should have made a law to rehabilitate all animals.”

The province recently approved the orphaned black bear protocol, but they said in their statement that every animal is different.

“The rehabilitation requirements for grizzly bears are different, often requiring specialized care for a longer period of time,” they said in the statement.

Grizzly bears were listed as threatened in Alberta in 2010 when it was determined there were only about 700 left. The numbers led to a recovery strategy aimed at reducing the number of deaths caused by people.

–By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

Howard man ordered pay $13,000 for trapping, killing migratory birds


A Howard man has been ordered to pay more than $13,000 in restitution for trapping migratory birds in steel traps in Minter County last year.

Armand Joseph Dornbusch, 63, was sentenced this week to pay $13,662.57 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica Duffy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also lost his hunting privileges for three years.

Miner County authorities found 21 steel-jawed leg-hold metal traps on wooden fence posts in August 2017. Twelve birds were found, including four hawks and one great horned owl, and four were still alive.

Three of the live birds were raptors and underwent surgery at the Great Plains Zoo to amputate “severely damaged digits” on their feet, according to the release. They were released back into the wild.


March 1 marked the beginning of the annual coyote challenge. For the 2nd year in a row the state is sponsoring the co…

Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 11:10 AM
Updated: Mar. 7, 2018 11:41 AM

March 1 marked the beginning of the annual coyote challenge. For the 2nd year in a row the state is sponsoring the competition to allow the hunter who brings in the most coyotes to be entered into drawings for a chance to win a lifetime hunting license or prize of similar value.

Trapper Jason Chapman is among this year’s participants.

“This is our trapping pack basket, it’s got all of our equipment, it’s got our traps ready to go,” said Chapman is also with Predator Control Services, a company that provides wildlife removal for a wide range of animals. That day Chapman was once again in search of what he calls nuisance coyotes. “The population has just exploded in the last five years even in these urban environments and that’s just not good to have,” added Chapman.

The wooded area behind homeowner Kim Waldrop property is the focus of Chapman’s trapping expedition. The property is sandwiched between a school and a residential neighborhood and Waldrop says it isn’t uncommon to see a coyote roaming the area. “Just three or four nights ago we saw them cut across the back area in front of our storage area and into that wooded lot right there. They just trotted right around like obviously this is his home as much as it is ours, but it’s just not.

State of Georgia also recognizes the problem and say the Coyote Challenge is an effort to control the coyote population. As part of the effort citizens throughout the state can trap and kill coyotes, then send a picture of their kill to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to be entered into the drawings that will take place every two months between March and August. Champion, has already submitted a coyote to the competition and he’s hoping his latest trapping efforts will add to his submissions.

“We use live catch foot restrains which hold the animals in place, the best way to describe it is think of it as handcuffs for a coyote, it hold them until we can come remove them, it’s the safest for the animal and it’s the most humane way to handle them,” added Champion.

But not everyone is in support of the effort, “The Georgia Coyote Challenge is something that our organization has been very outspoken against, we do not agree with” said Dr. Chris Mowry a biologist from Berry College.

Mowry is also the Founder of the Atlanta Coyote Project and he says we need to find a way to co-exist with the coyotes because killing them will only have an adverse effect. “Killing coyotes often times leads to unintended consequences and that is more coyotes. It may knock the population down for a little while but what happens, is you will free up individuals to breed who weren’t breeding before.”

Mowry says as the new coyotes breed their population will soar. In addition, he adds coyotes are helping to balance the ecosystem by controlling the rodent population. But, beyond that Mowry says the process is just inhumane. He also pointed out the timing of the challenge coincides with breading season, he says in many cases parent coyotes are killed and their cubs are left to roam the area in search of food, a process that once again increases the possibility of human contact. But, for Waldrop who hire Chapman to remove the coyotes because her family is already having negative interactions with the animals and she says something has to be done. “I’m very nervous because they are just so active and all over the place .

Sentiments Chapman echoed, “There are way too many coyotes out there right now the population has just sky rocketed and when I’m pulling 10 or 15 out of a small subdivision we know we have a problem.

As of Tuesday only 17 coyote entries had been turned into the challenge.

Editorial: Trapping, killing contests should have no place in NM

Welcome to the Land of Enchantment, where:• If you find a wild animal caught in a trap, you can neither free it nor put it out of its misery.

• You can kill as many non-game animals – porcupines, prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, Himalayan tahrs, skunks, feral hogs, bobcats and coyotes – as you like without a permit, sometimes for cash and fabulous prizes.

Just what does this say about our state?

New Mexico’s government-sponsored animal cruelty came to light again this week when a Placitas man released a fox from a foot-hold trap. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish told Gary Miles, the founder and owner of Placitas Animal Rescue, who responded to a runner’s call about the fox, that he could be arrested for being in possession of the fox.

Miles said the fox “escaped” after “it healed up real nice.”

State statute (C) says, in part, “It shall be illegal to destroy, disturb or remove any trap, snare or trapped wildlife belonging to a licensed trapper without permission of the owner of the trap or snare.” It raises the question why, in 2018, New Mexico endorses the use of leg-hold and other traps on public land, devices that were invented in the 1800s and have been banned in more than 80 countries, and banned or severely restricted in at least eight states.

They were banned because they are archaic, cruel and indiscriminate.

The fox story came to light around a week after an Albuquerque gun shop sponsored a coyote-killing contest outside Bernalillo County. And while that contest was on private land, the arguments that the shooters are removing a predatory threat or gathering pelts and meat or a trophy are used to disguise the real intent: killing for killing’s sake. Many times, the carcasses are piled up and left to rot.

Coyotes, like bobcats, are keystone species and compensatory breeders; kill too many, and they not only will make more to fill the gap, but in the interim the rodent population explodes.

But hey, that’s just what wildlife biologists say. Why let science get in the way of blood sport?

The New Mexico Legislature stepped up and banned cockfighting because lawmakers saw it for what it is: barbaric cruelty that has no place in our state’s proud cultures.

They need to do the same for trapping and killing contests.

New Jersey’s latest bear hunt may also be last for a while

Bear Hunt

Protesters gather not far from a bear hunt check-in station at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Fredon, N.J., in December 2014.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Hunters across New Jersey are making final preparations for the state’s next black bear hunt, which also may be the last one the state holds for some time.

While a formal decision won’t be made until next year, the hunt’s future seemed to be sealed on election night, when Democrat Phil Murphy – who has called for a moratorium on the hunts – won the gubernatorial race.

The state’s firearm-only season is scheduled for Dec. 4 to 9. It comes just weeks after 243 bears were killed during a six-day hunt staged mostly in northern New Jersey. The first three days of the last hunt were reserved for bow hunting, with bows and muzzle-loading guns allowed the final three days.

New Jersey resumed state-regulated bear hunting in 2003 after a ban that lasted more than 30 years. Another hunt was held in 2005, and in 2010 the state made it annual.



State wildlife officials have touted the annual hunts as an important part of controlling the bear population and minimizing run-ins with humans.

Black bears serve an important role in healthy ecosystems. They can travel great distances and disperse the seeds of many different plant species while feeding on fruits and berries. They can also clear out small amounts of vegetation while foraging, which opens up space for other plants.

But officials say there are concerns some may be going hungry due to the bear population density being too high.

Animal rights activists and other critics say the hunts are inhumane and unnecessary. They also argue that the number of bear-human incidents is down.



The firearm-only bear hunt will be held alongside the six-day firearm deer season. State officials have the option to extend the hunt to the following week if there aren’t enough bears killed.

Hunters must have a permit to hunt in one of the five bear hunting zones. They can obtain permits for two separate zones.

State wildlife officials have estimated that 3,500 bears live in New Jersey north of Interstate 80.



Officials expect state policy to change once Murphy takes office in January.

Murphy won the seat earlier this month when he defeated Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who had called for the hunts to continue. During the campaign, Murphy said he would impose a moratorium on the hunt and criticized Republican Gov. Chris Christie for holding hunts every year since he took office.

Murphy says that before authorizing another hunt, the state needs a “fuller understanding and proof” that they work better than nonlethal options in the state’s long-term bear management policies.



Experts say bear meat should be butchered within hours of the kill. They recommend that people slow-cook it, marinate it or use is as a ground meat.

To help hunters and cooks with their food preparations, the state Department of Environmental Protection has a “bear cookbook” on its website. It includes information on how to butcher the bear and safely cook the meat, along with recipes including spiced bear tenderloin, sweet and sour bear pot roast, spicy bratwurst-style bear sausage and bear gumbo.

Many hunters also donate some or all of the meat from their kills to food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters through state and local programs.



Once a bear is killed and checked in with state officials at designated sites, most hunters will head to a butcher shop to have the meat removed.

If they also want to memorialize the bear, their next stop is often a taxidermy shop, where the bruins are mounted or their hides are turned into rugs.

Some jobs can take a few months to complete and will cost a few thousand dollars, while some work will only cost the hunter a few hundred dollars.

Trump Jr. jokes about taking daughter’s candy to “teach her about socialism”

“teach her about socialism”

Donald Trump Jr. thrusts his fist after speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 19, 2016.


Donald Trump Jr., the president’s older son who is in charge of his father’s business responsibilities, joked on Twitter Tuesday night that he would take half his daughter’s candy from Halloween to “teach her about socialism.”

“I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight and give it so some kid who sat at home,” he tweeted. “It’s never too early to teach her about socialism.”

I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to early to teach her about socialism.

She was given candy for free.
You inherited all your money.
You met with Russian spies.
It’s “too”. 

J.K. Rowling, the now-wealthy author of the Harry Potter series who was once so poor she had to write the first novel on napkins in a pub, wrote, “Fill her bucket with old candy left by her great-grandfather, then explain that she has more because she’s smarter than all the other kids.”

Like his father, Trump Jr. — the 39-year-old whom the president defended as a “good boy” in light of the June 2016 meeting he held with a Russia-connected lawyer — has become well-known for his frequent and bombastic use of Twitter. He often uses his account to defend his father and bash liberals.

Trump Jr. and his wife, Vanesa Trump, have five children — Chloe, Kai Madison, Spencer Frederick, Tristan Milos and Donald Trump III. They were married in 2005.


What U.S. Poultry Producers Do Not Want You to Know About Bird Flu

Once again, bird flu is back in the U.S. From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million chickens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to prevent the disease’s spread and protect famer’s profits.

Factory farmers routinely fight to keep images of how poultry are raised out of public view, so consumers do not lose their appetites and will continue eating their products. Industrial farmers also fight hard to keep images of how chickens and turkeys are “euthanized” out of the public view.

It is easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens are herded into an enclosed area where they were administered propylene glycol foam to suffocate them. Michael Blackwell, chief veterinary officer at The Humane Society of the United States, likens death by foam to “cuffing a person’s mouth and nose, during which time you are very much aware that your breathing has been precluded.”

“Ventilation shutdown” is also used to kill healthy birds and prevent the spread of the flu. It raises the barn temperature to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours killing the entire flock—a method so extreme that even factory farmers admit it is cruel. During the 2015 outbreak, “Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits,” were required for the bird depopulation reported Fortune—a sequence likely to occur again.

Factory farmers like to blame bird flu on “migratory birds,” denying that high-volume production methods allow the spread of the disease. But the fact is, factory farms house 300,000 or more egg layers in one barn versus only tens of thousands of birds in “broiler barns” which is why the flu spreads so quickly among egg-laying hens.

Moreover, we the taxpayers compensate factory farmers for their self-induced losses and appalling farm practices.

“The poultry industry appreciates the fact that the USDA helps protect the health of the nation’s livestock and poultry by responding to major animal disease events such as this,” said a letter from the National Association Egg Farmers to Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics during the previous bird flu outbreak. But please “provide indemnification for the whole flock and not just the surviving,” the letter asks.

The only interaction most people have with poultry production is the prices they pay at the grocery store. When prices are low, people do not think twice. When prices jump—as they likely will with the new bird flu outbreak—few realize the higher prices are a direct result of the conditions that make low prices possible because they invite disease.

If an egg carton said, “30,000 hens were suffocated with propylene glycol foam to keep this low price,” would people buy the eggs? Would anyone buy a Thanksgiving turkey whose label said, “thousands of healthy turkeys were smothered to keep this low price?”

In addition to hiding the round-the-clock suffocation of birds to prevent bird flu’s spread, factory farmers assure the public that bird flu is not a threat to humans so people should keep eating their products. Sadly, their claim is not totally true.

During a bird flu outbreak, the unethical and deceptive practices of poultry producers are in full view. Yet, it is not hard to find healthy, protein-packed alternatives to factory farm-produced poultry products. By doing so, the U.S. public sends a strong message to poultry producers.

Bull Bison Brutally Stabbed by Hunters

(Warning: Contains Graphic Images)

On February 21, 2017 Crow, Cindy and I were on patrol in the afternoon heading up Jardine Road when we came upon two bull bison grazing beside the road. We stopped for a few moments to admire them. We also had severe reservations on their safety.

We continued to drive up Jardine Road to one of the lookout points and were checking on recent remains of bison kills. We heard five gunshots and our hearts sank.

It took about ten minutes to drive down Jardine Road and discover what we had feared. There were no hunting vehicles present, but we saw three teenagers and one younger boy situated about 50 yards up an incline from the road. They were busy gutting one of the bulls.


Bison Slaughter 1


We then spotted the other bull only 15 yards from the road. Cindy thought it was still breathing and Crow confirmed. Crow and Cindy immediately walked up to the teenagers to tell them this bull was still alive.


Bison Slaughter 2


The teenagers came down to the suffering bull with knives in their hands and immediately proceeded to stab him in the neck. The bull immediately jumped to his knees and everyone scattered. The bull fell down, but was actively moving its legs and head.


Bison Slaughter 3


The teenagers once again proceeded to stab him in the neck several more times.


Bison Slaughter 4
Bison Slaughter 5


He fought for his life as they stabbed him, raising his legs and hindquarters toward the sky in a desperate attempt to get away from his attackers.


Bison Slaughter 6
Bison Slaughter 8


The teenagers were giving up.

Then the adult hunters arrived. One of the hunters walked up to the struggling bull and shot it.


Bison Slaughter 9


The three of us are incredibly distraught at having to witness such a horrendous scene. I am certain that we will never forget the experience.

These two magnificent bulls had spent their lives living within Yellowstone. They lived their lives grazing and strolling along the rivers and roads of the park. They had become immune to vehicles and people. They lacked a fear mechanism that would allow them to avoid or defend themselves from such a brutal attack. When these two magnificent bison migrated across the park boundary, they were just strolling along a road and grazing like they always did. Hunters then pulled-up in a truck and shot them from a few yards away. This murder continued with the brutal stabbing and final slaughter of one of them. There is no skill to this type of “hunting,” which is really nothing more than a slaughter.

Witnessing this brutality makes me wonder how many other bison have succumbed to a similar death.

With the Buffalo,

Larry A. Lyons
BFC Volunteer

Super-size problem

Americans’ demand for cheap meat has forced factory-farm broiler chickens to grow faster and larger than ever before

All Animals magazine, March/April 2017

by Karen Lange

  • Click or tap the image to enlarge.

Fresh from the trauma of World War II, mid-century Americans imagined a peaceful, prosperous future. They dreamed of moon rockets and flying cars. They envisioned house-cleaning robots. And, after years of rationing, they hoped for bountiful meals. Most particularly, they hungered for chicken. But not the scrawny, spent laying hens, exhausted from their lives producing eggs, that Americans ate when beef and pork were scarce. Instead, they looked forward to the bird of the future—bigger, better.

The A&P grocery chain invited poultry producers to enter a nationwide contest. Farmers sent eggs from their plumpest birds to a U.S. Department of Agriculture station on Maryland’s eastern shore. Researchers selected and bred birds who were larger and faster- growing to create a new type of chicken, “a broad-breasted bird with bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs and layers of white meat,” according to writer and broadcaster Lowell Thomas, who narrated a documentary sponsored by Texaco. It would be, proclaimed the film’s title, “The Chicken of Tomorrow.”

Over decades, America got all that and more.

As the winning chicks, hatched in 1948, were used to breed the strains now used by large-scale commercial farms, the time needed to raise a “broiler”—a chicken raised for meat—dropped from 12 weeks to six or less, the feed required fell by half and the growth rate multiplied by four. The amount of breast meat on an individual bird rose by nearly 70 percent. By 1978, a pound of chicken, which in 1922 had cost around $5.50 in today’s dollars, cost just $2.46. Per capita, chicken consumption grew four-fold, and a whole new industry emerged, dominated by factory farms controlled by corporations such as Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride.

  • At 56 days old, when chickens are typically sent to slaughter, today’s broilers are much larger than broilers of the past. Photo by Poultry Science Association.

A recent paper shows the consequences: Scientists at a research farm in Alberta that has continued to breed earlier strains of chickens took pictures of a 1956 type broiler, a 1978 broiler and a 2005 broiler, all 8 weeks old, and placed the photos side by side. The result is unsettling: On the left, a comparatively fit bird (1956), in the center a plump chicken (1978) who appears “normal” (if you don’t know how chickens used to look), and on the right, the “chicken of tomorrow,” a morbidly obese bird (2005) who appears monstrous next to the others. By modern standards, she’s a week or two past the date when she would be slaughtered for meat, and she’s at high risk for heart failure. She’s a juvenile, but the size of her body has outgrown the capacity of her bones and joints, muscles and organs to support it, says John Webster, professor emeritus of animal husbandry at the University of Bristol.

“If [broilers] weren’t killed at 42 days, they wouldn’t survive another two weeks,” he says.

During the last days of their lives, about a third of broiler chickens suffer leg problems so severe they struggle to walk. Factory-farm workers move through buildings to collect dead birds and break the necks of lame ones. Survivors huddle on the floor, trapped by their own bodies. Unable to escape the pain, they lie in litter strewn with their own waste. Ammonia burns their breasts and often blisters their skin and feet.

In 2016, The HSUS launched a campaign to end these kind of conditions. In June, Perdue became the first major producer to commit to reform. Major buyers followed.

The initiative comes after years of research have documented the suffering produced by the birds’ genetics. Before joining HSUS-affiliate Humane Society International, Sara Shields studied whether farmers could encourage broilers to dustbathe and improve their welfare through increased exercise. But she found that because of their size, dustbathing was not enough, and by the time the birds approached the market weight they did not engage in much behavior beyond sitting and eating.

What has taken place is the opposite of Darwinian selection, Webster says. “They’ve destroyed the fitness of the bird in order to produce the most meat.”

With approximately 9 billion broilers raised and slaughtered each year in the U.S. alone (60 billion worldwide), Webster calls the broiler industry the single greatest example of human inhumanity toward another animal. It’s why Shields chose chickens as the subject of her doctoral dissertation.

“If an animal only has six weeks to live, it’s really important that they have a positive experience,” she says, “because that’s all they’ve got—six weeks.”

Chickens raised for meat spend their days in dark barns where they often sit on the floor in their own waste. Photo by Mercy for Animals.

But to improve quality of life, breeders must change broiler genetics so birds grow more slowly and can live longer, Webster, Shields and other experts say. Fortunately, breeders still have small supplies of slower- growing chicks that can be used to reform the industry. In the United Kingdom, grocery stores competing for customers are already selling birds that take 10 weeks to reach market weight. In the United States, at the urging of The HSUS and other animal welfare groups, producers and buyers are beginning to shift toward this. There is also hope that researchers can eventually breed a faster-growing bird that is healthy and walks without pain.

The HSUS has worked with Perdue, one of the country’s largest producers, to develop a reform plan that includes changing the type of broilers farmers raise and offering birds more room. Late in 2016, the five largest food service companies in the country, which together buy more than 115 million chickens a year—Compass Group, Sodexo, Aramark, Delaware North and Centerplate—announced with The HSUS that by 2024 they will adopt a new Global Animal Partnership standard for healthier breeds of chickens, better living conditions and increased space per bird.

Starbucks and Panera Bread have announced a similar policy. Aside from ensuring better lives for the chickens, the companies are also mandating a slaughter method that avoids excessively inhumane practices and instead uses a multistep controlled-atmosphere processing system that renders chickens unconscious so they suffer less.

Josh Balk, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection, says the organization is meeting with other major companies. “It will take years to make these changes happen,” he says. “We have to start now.”

Modern broilers are raised in starkly different ways: Factory farms stock the fastest- growing birds, while some smaller farms let slower-growing birds roam outside. As The HSUS transforms the industry, bigger farms will switch to healthier birds able to lead better lives, even if they are still indoors.

  • Due to their unnatural size, many chickens suffer painful injuries and are unable to walk. Photo by Compassion Over Killing.

Suffering silently

Walk into one of the windowless, dimly lit factory farms where most U.S. broilers are raised, and you’re likely to see tens of thousands of obese birds, barely stirring, sitting on the floor in their own waste. They have been selected for massive appetites, bred to eat and sit. Many of the birds have painful leg and joint problems that make walking difficult. They’re confined so close together that they jostle one another. This, plus the absence of a natural light-dark cycle, prevents sleep, which is critical for young, growing animals. It’s a scene of quiet misery. There’s a stench of ammonia. The birds’ bodies are on the brink of giving out. So extreme is the stress that in order for breeder broilers to survive long enough to lay eggs (about 20 weeks), producers must restrict their feed intake, sometimes feeding them only every other day. Broilers raised to be eaten usually die at 6 weeks, says Shields. “They still peep like baby chicks when they’re slaughtered.”

Ranging freely

The chickens at White Oaks Pastures, owned by HSUS state agriculture advisory council member Will Harris in Bluffton, Georgia, are very different because of their genetics, behavior and environment. Place a factory farm broiler outside to forage for food and move with a flock, and that chicken probably would not survive, Harris says. Using chicks who genetically resemble birds from the 1950s, Harris puts his birds out on pasture to do what chickens evolved to: search out insects and other edible morsels by scratching the soil, all the while fertilizing dirt with their manure. They walk miles each day before they roost in mobile houses that are towed to different spots. At 12 weeks, they reach 3 to 4 pounds and are slaughtered on the farm. The price consumers pay, via the White Oak Pastures website, is around $4 per pound—more than three times what conventional chicken meat costs. It’s a struggle to find people to spend that, says Harris, who has turned a profit with pasture-raised cows and pigs but not so far with chickens: “Consumers will either support humane production, and it will thrive, or they will not, and it will perish.”

On Will Harris’ farm in Georgia, broiler chickens grow at a healthier rate and have room to roam. Photo by Julie Busch Branaman/For The HSUS.

A more humane future

The HSUS is encouraging producers to breed healthier broilers who live free from pain and engage in typical chicken behaviors— in other words, to be like chickens were until the push for maximum efficiency altered their genetic makeup. Given a modest increase in space (at least 1 square foot per six pounds of animal) along with more natural light, better litter quality and hay bales, their lives will be substantially altered. They will walk around, dust bathe, peck and perch. For the birds, a lifetime of misery will be turned into an existence that allows for a little bit of pleasure. Webster, the professor in the U.K., has seen it happen. Chickens there live in conditions that allow them to demonstrate their intelligence and engaging personalities. When a human visitor arrives, they rush forward to great him. “The big movement is to get a better bird,” he says. “Once you’ve got a better bird, you can give it a better life.”