I am a chicken. I have the same five senses as you. I can see, smell, touch, hear, and taste. I experience pain, misery, loneliness, and happiness. I like to socialize and enjoy time with my family and friends. I am intelligent and follow a pecking order. I can recognize other chickens by sight and smell. I nest and nurture my young. I chirp dozens of vocalizations and speak my own language. I have a long term memory. I like to sit in trees. I run towards food because I enjoy eating. I am scared of loud noises. I have a purpose in this world just like you. Simply because you don’t have the capacity to understand it doesn’t make it any less significant than your purpose in this world. From the day I am born until the day I die, I am the most disrespected and mistreated animal on the face of the earth. I am a chicken.
The majority of humans show no regard for my life. They ascribe no reason for my existence beyond being abused and killed for food. They show me no mercy but ask for it for themselves and those they love, including their own animals they keep as pets. I wonder how they can say they can’t watch someone kill me but can still bring themselves to pay someone to do it and eat me. I wonder if they will ever see the irony of calling themselves animal lovers while they fund the abuse of animals for food. I bet if they met me, got to know me, and held me in their arms, they wouldn’t allow people to abuse me and they wouldn’t eat me.
I am a chicken. I am crowded in a warehouse where I am unable to move freely my entire life. I do not ever see the light of day or breathe fresh air unless I am transported in a truck where I will often die from cold weather exposure or heat stroke. I sleep in my own feces or the feces from cages above that fall on my head.
Factory farmers mislead you into believing I am treated humanely by telling you that I am free-range. Don’t believe them. They abuse me in ways that would shock you. “Free-range” or “cage-free” means that instead of putting me in a cage, I am packed on a sordid warehouse floor where I live with thousands of other chickens in less than a square foot of space for each of us. You’re told I’m cage-free so you will feel less guilty when you buy my remains and so the factory farmers can charge you more money and increase their profits. The cruelty is the same.
My beak is cut off with a hot blade. It is excruciating pain. I do not receive anesthesia. They cut my beak off so when I go crazy, I don’t fight with other chickens and kill them. It is not my nature to kill chickens any more than it is your nature to kill people. Imagine the living conditions that would cause me, such a gentle animal, to kill another chicken.
I am genetically altered to grow twice as fast as I’m supposed to grow. I am so heavy that I can’t stand anymore. The weight breaks my legs. I am fed growth hormones that you ingest when you eat me. If you’re eating chickens like me, you’re on steroids. Our hearts and lungs can’t support the forced growth causing billions of us to die before slaughter. I am filled with antibiotics to prevent my death before I’m killed. You eat those antibiotics and your body develops an immunity to them which places you at risk to resist them when you’re sick and need them. You think you know what I taste like but you do not. I am stuffed with preservatives and flavorings that create what you believe tastes like chicken. It isn’t healthy for you to eat me. You’ve been fooled by the meat industry into believing otherwise.
Unsanitary living conditions cause us to die of thirst, overheating, infections, and diseases. It is common for 20,000 of us to be crammed in one broiler house in a factory. The electrical current used to kill us is often set low so it doesn’t ruin the meat on our bones.
In many cases, it doesn’t kill us and we are thrown into a scolding hot tank of water to remove our feathers while we are still conscious. You can hear us scream from a mile away.
A mechanical blade is also used to slash our throats. Many times it isn’t properly aligned and only partially slashes our throats, leaving us to die miserable deaths. These killing errors happen to millions of us. If you think my life is bad, read about what they do to battery hens to lay eggs. Their lives are even worse.
I know you don’t see any of this happen but it does to billions of chickens like me and it’s scary and painful and horrible and I can’t understand how anybody who learns about it can support it and think nothing of it.
I am a chicken. If I could speak, I would beg you not to eat me anymore. I want to be free like other birds. I want you to respect my life on this earth as you value your own. Your existence is only more important than mine in your mind. Simply because you believe it doesn’t make it so. Forget what your culture taught you. Think for yourself. Does this look right to you?
Knowing what you know now, that you don’t need to eat me to survive, and that my life and death are cruel beyond your imagination, and that you say you love animals, are you still going to pay someone to torture and kill me? Or will you make a humane decision and refrain and ask others to do the same?
I was a chicken and I wish my life meant more to you.
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is a volunteer grassroots animal rights advocate and the organizer of the 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals. He writes a zero-profit blog, Kirschner’s Korner, to help raise awareness about issues affecting the global community to make the world a more humane place. To receive Dr. Kirschner’s new articles via email, enter your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of the blog.