A roadside memorial could be erected to honor chickens killed in a wreck last week in Gainesville.
Sarah Segal, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and an Atlanta resident, has applied to the Georgia Department of Transportation to place a 10-foot-tall memorial tombstone at the site on U.S. 129/Athens Highway near Wilson Road for one month.
The Jan. 27 wreck injured a Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputy driving a pickup truck and the driver of a tractor-trailer carrying the live chickens. Both men were treated and released from the hospital that day.
The tractor-trailer overturned during the incident and, according to Segal’s letter, “resulted in the deaths of dozens of chickens.”
Laura Cascada, a senior campaign coordinator for PETA based in Norfolk, Va., worked with Segal to submit and publicize her request.
“We’ve worked on proposals like this across the country to draw attention to the plight of animals thrown from transport,” she said.
Teri Pope, Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman for Northeast Georgia, said the memorial policy explicitly places the bar at “people” for participation in the program.
It also sets specific — smaller — parameters for the displays.
“The memorial marker shall consist of a 15 inch round aluminum sign panel with a white background of high intensity (type 3) sign sheeting, with black legend,” the policy states.
The memorial program’s purpose is to increase public awareness of highway safety and to memorialize people who are victims of car accidents, according to the policy. Requests can be made by next of kin or friends with family approval.
Cascada said the organization is aware the proposed structure does not comply with state policy, but hopes it will be approved anyway.
“The 10-foot tombstone is really just a way to grab peoples’ attention and show this is a sentient being and get peoples’ reaction,” she said. “We hope they will accept it and display it.”
Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles said he was confident the DOT would apply roadside memorial rules fairly.
“As I understand it, Georgia DOT has a policy for roadside memorial markers, and I am confident that the agency applies the policy fairly and treats each application with the respect it deserves,” Giles wrote in an email to The Times.
Poultry is a $28 billion industry in Georgia, and Gainesville is the largest area in the state in terms of processing and production, according to the federation.
PETA has tried before and not yet successfully petitioned to install a road memorial for animals who perished in transport, Cascada said.
“We’ve tried a few places and appealed to a few different departments,” she said. “We’re hoping this would be the first time ... to provide that different perspective, so we’re hopeful.”
Some members of the public contacted Thursday in Gainesville called foul on the fowl proposal, saying the proposal’s disregard for state rules reveals an ulterior motive.
Cascada said the tombstone’s visibility would make drivers’ more wary of people and chickens alike, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary accidents and preserve the lives of chickens in transport.
“We would work with them to make sure it’s set in the public right of way; far enough from the road,” she said. “It will help remind people to be careful, especially with hundreds or even thousands of chickens on board.”
But Cascada acknowledged the reality of the chickens’ final destination, making the “Go Vegan” phrase a key takeaway.
“The more people who go vegan, the fewer chickens are in this situation to begin with,” she said.
PETA has applied to memorialize chickens in Salem, Ore., and in memory of fish spilled on the road in California, Cascada said.
Pope said the department has not yet received the memorial marker application, the first to her knowledge requesting to memorialize animals.