Each day, an estimated 100 million chickens are killed throughout the world, with most meeting an unceremonious end to their unappreciated little lives. For one particular chicken in Brazil, however, whose feathered existence was needlessly cut short recently, quite the opposite is true -- not because she was so special, but simply because she was loved.
Five years ago in the town of Patos, retiree Genecira de Oliveira and her daughter helped hatch what would become their new pet -- a fluffy young chick they named Rafinha. And although she was by all accounts not your typical animal companion, the Oliveiras doted upon the chicken like she truly was a member of the family, earning the bird a pleasant reputation in the community.
But sadly, not everyone looked at Rafinha as a vessel of affection.
Last week, a thief broke into the Oliveira's home and chicken-napped their beloved bird. The family's story and heartfelt appeals for Rafinha's safe return captured headlines and made local news, but soon hope was lost. Police were able to track down the perpetrator, who reportedly sold the chicken as poultry in exchange for drugs.
Faced with this loss, the Oliveiras decided to organize a symbolic burial for their beloved pet.
"People may even find this funny situation, but they don't know how much we are suffering without our chicken because she was very special to us," Genecira de Oliveira told the journal Paraiba. "Making this funeral for Rafinha hardly expresses what she represented in our lives in these five years."
The family soon learned that they weren't alone in celebrating the life of their rather unorthodox pet Rafinha. With the help of some media attention, around 2,000 residents of Patos, including the Mayor, gathered in a lively funeral procession to pay their last respects to a chicken.
And though the whole event was at times lighthearted (particularly for a region where eating meat is part of daily life), there's little doubt that a chicken named Rafinha won't soon be forgotten.