Activist sticks neck out for chickens
HONOMU, Big Island » A Big Island animal rights activist hopes to save thousands of chickens from slaughter when Hawaiian Fresh Egg Farm near Waimea closes later this year.
Tony Marasia does not have the resources to buy all 8,000 hens currently left at the farm, but he is hoping people will be willing to adopt a few.
The 33-year-old thinks of the hens as friends or individuals, rather than pets or animals.
Marasia says two farm hens he recently rescued, Meepa and Beepa, have personalities. Meepa likes to sing and Beepa is the sunbather.
"They have likes; they have dislikes," Marasia said, sitting in a green plastic chair as Meepa and Beepa strolled around their new home, a 20-by-30-foot pen in the back yard of a vacant house.
Marasia built the pen himself and is renting the back yard for $100 a month.
As a vegan, Marasia swears off eating animals and animal products, including seafood and eggs. Saving Big Island farm animals from slaughter was not always his goal.
Marasia grew up in Pennsylvania and came to Hawaii a decade ago with the intention of studying Eastern religions and pre-veterinary medicine at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, to become a zoo keeper.
Instead, he became "sidetracked" by other ventures and did not enroll. For a time he worked as a security guard at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo.
After the death of his goldfish, Goldie, in 2005, he swore off eating fish. A short time later, Marasia watched the video "Meet Your Meat," produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, about the cruel treatment of animals in modern farms.
Six months later, in mid- 2006, Marasia met Pono the cow when the Holstein was restrained by a 10-foot-long chain. Marasia started a successful campaign to raise money to buy the animal, sparing Pono from a trip to the slaughterhouse.
He relied on Internet donations to get Pono, and hopes to draw on donors again for this venture.
"To me, with each hen that is rescued ... the world changes a little bit," Marasia said. "With each hen, for them the world has changed."
Hawaiian Fresh Farm Eggs is winding down production and is looking to close in October.
David Davenport, the farm's owner, supports the idea of a safe haven for the hens.
"I think it's a good thing, if people want to do it," he said.