"I reach out to a worker and receive five panicking birds. The five in his other hand get stuffed into a machine. Five set free, five for the machine."
Meet Lina Lind Christensen.
She rescues animals from the brink of death and gives them sanctuary at Frie Vinger, a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals in Denmark. When she’s not caring for the animals she rescues, Christensen works to create change for them on an international level as Director of Corporate Relations at Anima, a large animal advocacy organisation in Denmark.
“My interest in helping animals dates back a long time. I have always been interested in animal welfare, even when I was kid. Ten years ago, I saw online video footage of cow waiting in line to die at a slaughterhouse. The video was so powerful – we can see clearly that the cow or bull is scared and trying to get away because she/he understands what is happening to the others up ahead. This made me think about the moral status of animals – should we be killing them at all?”
What led her to do this rescue work? It was a moment that she will never forget.
“I opened the door and immediately saw on the other side of the door, a hen who had fallen out of a cage. She was a little brown hen who had barely any feathers. She was obviously scared and had never seen the sun before. It was a beautiful sunny day, the 1st of June – the sun was shining, but here was this little hen just inside the door who had never seen sunshine. I will never forget this moment. I called for my husband to come and see this hen, but when I turned back she was gone. I didn’t get to help her, although I looked for her. It was so dark in the barn, such a contrast from the beautiful sunny day outside. I looked and looked for this little hen, but I could not find her.”
Even though Christensen was not able to rescue this particular bird, this encounter has stayed with her and has shaped her activism. Seeing this animal in such poor condition and realising that this was only one of thousands of hens at the farm had a profound impact on her.
“It made me determined to fight to ensure that no animal should live as she did.”
Christensen now dedicates her life to rescuing chickens through her sanctuary, Frie Vinger.
Surprised to discover that Denmark had a severe lack of rescue and rehoming schemes for hens and roosters, Christensen set out to do something about it. Undeterred, she decided to start contacting farmers herself. Many of them laughed, thinking she was foolish to be spending so much time and money on their welfare and wellbeing.
“Most farmers seem desensitized, and normally they laugh at me and the work I am doing, but not this one time... I was at a farm, packing hens into the cages. One had fallen from the “grinder,” a machine the farmer uses to kill the spent hens. This hen had a broken wing and I ran to pick her up. The farmer said ‘it is probably best that hen goes with you,’ as if he was happy that she would get a second chance.”
Another farmer told her that he would be getting rid of some hens in a few days and that she could take some of them herself if she wanted. It was at this farm where she had the transformative moment with the single, scared little brown hen who had fallen out of her cage.
Christensen was able to rescue six hens from this first farm. As she was picking up the birds she tried to come to terms with what she was seeing. There were 50,000 hens crammed in cages and they were not in good shape. They were scared and did not have access to the outdoors.
“I knew that this sort of production existed in Denmark, but I guess I believed that this country was better than other places. I believe many people tell themselves that.”
The farmer brought the six hens out to Christensen, carrying them upside down by their legs before tossing them in to the crate that would transport them to freedom. The farmer was patronising, smirking at Christensen and her husband as if they were fools for even trying to help these birds.
While six hens out of a population of 50,000 might not seem like a monumental rescue, it was the rescue that set the wheels in motion for Christensen’s sanctuary work. And, of course, this rescue made all the difference in the world to each of these six individuals who suddenly found themselves living a very different life in the safety of Christensen’s loving home.
“I want more than anything for people to understand that animals are individuals. I want to give them their individuality back.”
Lina Lind Christensen is changing people’s perceptions of animals through her work, helping them to see that every animal she rescues is an individual with their own set of needs and unique personality.
“I think there is a need for more farm sanctuaries in Denmark. There are a lot of people who want to visit our sanctuary, and volunteer too! This is good for the animals and for the humans who want to see rescue, beauty and kindness. Frie Vinger enables people to see the animals, be with them, and connect with them. This is important.”
This story is part of an Unbound Project feature - a multimedia documentary project co-founded by acclaimed photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur (We Animals) and Dr. Keri Cronin (Department of Visual Arts, Brock University). The project’s aim is to celebrate the lives of women at the forefront of animal advocacy. For more information and inspiration, visit UnboundProject.org.
All images courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/Unbound Project
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