A handful of activists stood with signs opposing meat production Sept. 21 at Allen Harim's Harbeson poultry processing plant.
“We hold signs to evoke thought in passersby, but we are really there for the chickens,” said Justine Burton, founder of Delaware Animal Save. “We tell them things like, 'we are sorry' and 'it will be over soon' and that we love them. Food shouldn't be violent, and life should be respected.”
Burton started Delaware Animal Save in April 2017 after moving from California. The organization is affiliated with The Save Movement, an international group started in 2010.
She said this is the group's second vigil – activists don't consider their displays to be protests. The first was held in August at Mountaire Farms' processing plant in Millsboro.
“Our aim is to be at as many slaughterhouses as we can to bear witness to the lives of the animals before they become someone's dinner,” she said. “We aim to help people transition into a vegan diet, as well as transition these slaughterhouses into a different business.”
Burton said the activists were not asked to leave either location, but security was present to ensure they stayed off private property. She said some people passing by offered positive honks and thumbs up, while others yelled, “Eat more chicken!” and “Get a job!” One person flung fried chicken out of their car window, she said.
Poultry growing and processing on Delmarva is a $3.2 billion industry and supports thousands of jobs, according to Delmarva Poultry Industry data. In 2015 Delaware ranked eighth in the nation in value of poultry production, while Sussex County has historically taken first place among America's counties in chicken meat production.
“We understand and respect that not everyone eats meat,” said Allen Harim spokeswoman Cathy Bassett in response to the activist's recent display in Harbeson. “But we are trying to meet customer demand for no-antibiotic-ever chicken, and we are doing so following strict animal welfare standards. These are values that everyone at Allen Harim takes seriously, from our senior leadership team to our contracted growers and all of our employees who work in our processing plant.”