Just Chickens

 

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On May 14, 2014, over a thousand chickens were killed when the lorry taking them to the slaughter house crashed on the M62 in Greater Manchester. Many were left wandering the carriageway before being caught , crated and sent back to the slaughterhouse.  Many others may have died from injuries  caused during this process.  However due to the efforts of a nearby dog rescue, “dogs4resue”, a huge number were saved. They did this with the  eventual and unexpected help of the poultry men, who changed from catching and re-crating the hens to assisting in their rescue.  There was no common language. Without this team effort, those surviving hens would not now be enjoying their new “freedom” lives,  all quickly adopted by the many people who came forward to offer them  homes.
The silver lining of a very dark cloud.

Just Chickens

Context

They’re just chickens. Stupid creatures.
Good for nothing
When they’re spent,
Only worth the food and cage when
Eggs come daily from their vent.

Only chickens, no good features
Flapping, pecking,
Noise and dirt,
Doesn’t matter how we treat them,
Doesn’t matter if they’re hurt.

Now the night time slaughter lorry-
Pack ’em in and
Fill the van,
Don’t feel sadness don’t be sorry,
They’re just chickens: I am man.

Journey begins

No air, densely packed,
Crates piled, steeply stacked,
All fearful, all still,
Where going? Whose will?
How safe? How secure?
Where to? What endure?
No air, densely packed-
There’s no turning back.

Collision

A thunderous noise! Then the dawn-drizzled day,
Explodes in an avalanche of crates
Flung at speed onto the motorway,
Crashing and rolling, crashing then stalling,
Hurtling and turning, now bouncing and falling.
And the hapless inside,
Are calling, and calling and calling…

Crates have spaces, crates have gaps-
Legs twist, necks snap,
Bones break, hearts bleed,
For human need- or human greed?

BUT-
They’re just chickens, only chickens
So it’s just an inconvenience,
For the farmer and the drivers,
And we’re sure to meet with lenience.
But the carriageway is teeming
Now with dead and dying chickens,
Some are walking some are goners
Some won’t now be finger-lickin’.
Not a problem, just a nuisance,
Lucky no-one’s hurt (that matters),
We’re not losing our insouciance
Just because of feathered tatters.

Then from down the bank we notice,
Crazy people wearing sorrow,
Come to help the feathered nothings,
Hands and help they freely borrow.
Why they care we can’t imagine,
Who would think this matter “mattered”?
(Just an upset, not important)
Who would try to save the shattered?
They’re just chickens- only chickens,
They’re not things we’ve even thought of,
On their way to death and slaughter.

Aftermath

Kind hands, helping hands,
Hold me gently (not by feet,
upside down and incomplete)
They stroke and nurture,
Tend and care,
I wish these hands
Were everywhere.

They won’t be stopped
They won’t be swayed,
They hold me close,
They hear my prayer,
They share my pain
They calm my fear
I wish these hands
Were always near.

Men watch, men wait,
They deride, they hate.
We suffer, we die,
You laugh, you cry.

* * * * *

Kindness is infectious.
It spreads like a rash.
Now people are helping
Who once thought us trash.
They rescue and carry,
They help and assist,
For kindness is often quite
Hard to resist.

For kindness melts boulders
For that it is meant,
The burden it shoulders
is Heaven-sent.

The ice it unfreezes
The waters it parts
Is ignorance leaving
The selfish heart.

Reflection

We died differently today.
Hundreds maybe thousands of us,
You won’t have noticed,
Unless you were delayed,
For which, sorry.

After all, we’re just chickens.
(And life for chickens, ain’t just.)

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