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Tent City's Chicken Sanctuary

Interview with Michael and Marilyn Berenzweig


Marilyn Berenzweig

Marilyn Berenzweig and chicken

©Doris Lin 2012, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Are you doing anything to prevent them from reproducing?

Marilyn: Well the chickens we're responsible for have not reproduced. And to tell you the truth, I don't know if it's their mindset, but they don't want to have babies. When they lay eggs, quite often they eat them themselves. They've never gone broody, where they sit on eggs and hatch them.

Michael: That's one of the gripes we have with the rest of the camp. Because they should give a little more care and a little more concern. And a lot of them have been killed over there because they have no protection.

Killed by whom?

Michael: Killed by predators. By raccoons, by possums.

Marilyn: We have a lot of predators. Foxes, owls.

But not human predators?

Michael: There are rumors, but I don't know. But none of ours have been taken. We're sure of that. But at the same time, you see all the tents around here, so when they go in, they're protected. But I stray from the question. We can't control the rest of the camp, and we can't be over there.

Marilyn: Once a mother comes over here with baby chicks, what would you do? So you protect them if you can. And some of the mothers aren't willing to be protected. They want to live a wilder life. They lose quite a few babies. One mother had fifteen and I think she ended up with six or seven. Skunks and feral cats will go after chicks. It's a hard life for a baby chick. They're so tiny. And the mothers are roosting on the ground at that time. That's why they want them up in the trees as soon as they can manage to get them up there. And I told you it's amazing to watch teaching their chicks how to climb a tree. It's real cute.

I'm sure people are wondering: How do you manage to at vegan and organic while living in Tent City?

Michael: Well, Tent City has its pluses and its minuses. You're not paying for electricity or rent or a gas bill or water. So we're getting SSI, Social Security Supplemental Income. We're also spending at least a couple hundred dollars on the animals that live here. To us, it's not a question of scrimping and saving. Everybody, including us, gets top quality organic food. So, at the end of the month, we probably have a dollar left, but everybody's managed to have good food and protection and all that stuff.

Marilyn: The hardest part is keeping food. Like I just threw out a loaf of bread today that had literally grown hair. We have no refrigeration, of course.

Michael: You reminded me. We're trying to obtain some kind of official status as a sanctuary so we can get support and better facilities and maybe move to a better place, too, for a number of reasons aside from everybody living with us. We'd like to show people that they can be independent. Use herbs, homeopathy, good quality organic food and have much better health and not pay through the nose.

Marilyn: I think a lot of people, if they got to know a chicken, would find it very hard to eat one. That's important to us, too.

Marilyn:When we first came here, as soon as we got the chicks, we got two raccoons coming. We slept with the chicks in that tent and you could hear them scratching, trying to get into the tent. And I had a dream where I was talking to the raccoons and I said, "We'll give you anything you'd like to eat if you don't hurt the chickens." And after that, they kind of went away.

Michael, you mentioned there are several passages in the Bible that support veganism and support animal rights. Could you just mention a couple of them?

Michael: The very first page of the Bible, creation on the fifth day, when supposedly God creates all the land animals, God says to humans, and he says it to all the living beings, "I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." (Genesis 1:29) "Meat" is synonymous with "food." People erroneously use the word "meat" when it really means "solid food." It doesn't mean decaying cadavers. So right off the bat, on the first page of the Bible, God tells people to be vegan. Romans 14:21 literally says, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine." Straight out. I would recommend the books "Vegetarianism and Jesus Christ," "The Lost Religion of Jesus," "Forgotten Beginnings of Creation and Christianity." These are all written by vegans who exhaustively studied the Bible and connecting texts. As you get into the prophets, as you go into the Old Testament, you have Amos and Jeremiah and Hosea and Isaiah – they lived in a humble way. They were vegetarian. They spoke out against the animal sacrifices. They spoke out against meat eating. The most important thing there is that Christ supports the prophets. And even though the New Testament has been rewritten and it leaves out a lot of good things and it adds things that aren't so good, you can still find in there that Christ supported the vegetarian, vegan prophets. He said, "I require mercy, not sacrifice."

The Berenzweigs are working on getting 501(c)(3) status for their sanctuary. In the meantime, if you'd like to donate to the sanctuary, please make checks out to "Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church," write "Chicken sanctuary" on the memo line and send it to:

Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church
PO Box 326
Lakewood, NJ 08701

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