Recipient of the 2017 Young Activist Award at the National Animal Rights Conference
The Jewish Veg Spotlight Shines On ...
Zoe Rosenberg, 15-years-old, is the founder of Happy Hen Chicken Rescue in San Luis Obispo, California. Amazingly, she started the animal sanctuary when she was just 11. She is also an organizer with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere.
She has traveled the country speaking about the fight for animal liberation, and sharing the stories of animals whom she has rescued from the food industry. Zoe recently received the Young Activist Award at the National Animal Rights Conference in D.C.
Jewish Veg: How old were you when you first began your animal advocacy and what first inspired you?
Zoe: I was 10-years-old when my family first got chickens. I realized then that chickens and all farm animals are no different than the cats and dogs I already loved and cared for at home.
Once I got to know the chickens, I began to think about all the chickens around the world that need homes. I wanted to rescue as many as possible. I became so passionate about this and asked my mom if we could start a chicken rescue together. I started a Website and it just took off from there.
Jewish Veg: You founded Happy Hen Chicken Rescue when you were 11-years-old. What is Happy Hen Chicken Rescue and who lives there?
Zoe: Happy Hen Chicken Rescue is a nonprofit farm animal sanctuary that rescues animals from the food industry. We have 130 chicken residents as well as 4 pigs, 2 goats, 1 turkey, 4 ducks, and 2 geese. In the past three years, we have rescued over 600 animals.
Jewish Veg: What does your daily work at the sanctuary entail?
Zoe: I get up early every morning and let all of the animals out. Then I have to do cleaning work throughout the day. We have a couple part-time employees who also help clean. In the evening, I put everyone in their coops around 6 p.m. That way, they are safe from predators.
I also do social media for the sanctuary. My mom is a veterinarian so she is at the sanctuary full-time taking care of all the animals. If we ever have a sick chicken, we bring them to our ICU and she puts them on meds and nurses them back to health.
Jewish Veg: Do you have an animal you particularly connect with? Who and why?
Zoe: We have one hen named Jaya. She is so sweet. She has the most gentle look in her eyes.
She was rescued from a so-called free-range egg farm. When she first arrived, she was so timid. All of the other animals terrified her. She would hide in a corner with her sister.
Now, she has totally come out of her shell and become this beautiful, confident hen. All of her feathers have grown back. Rather than fear in her eyes, she looks at you with so much love and understanding.
Jewish Veg: Why are sanctuaries important to the animal rights movement?
Zoe: Sanctuaries are a place where non-human animals can come and find safety, happiness, and freedom. They are also a place where humans can come and really connect with once victims of animal agriculture. Humans can see what the world will be like when we achieve animal liberation.
Jewish Veg: We loved your passionate acceptance speech at the National Animal Rights Conference. How do your peers in high school respond to your high-energy advocacy?
Zoe: Right now I am homeschooled. However, in middle school I did attend school in-person. My peers were not totally supportive. They would make jokes about me and my beliefs and push them away. I think they felt somewhat embarrassed.
They seemed like they knew I was right, sometimes I would even catch them admitting it. They were still going to eat meat, though. Most of my friends now are much older. I just connect with them better.
Jewish Veg: How do your Jewish values inform your activism?
Zoe: I mean, I didn't grow up super religious, but we did always celebrate Passover, a celebration of liberation. We would be celebrating liberation, but people would celebrate with an egg or a piece of a lamb's body on the table. Those animals never had liberation.
I want to see the day where we can celebrate liberation for all beings, regardless of species, gender, religion, or any other arbitrary factor.