I want to introduce myself.
I am Meat Chicken.
Those who cursed me with birth call me ‘Broiler’.
I came into this world to fulfil a purpose for you, which is to eat my flesh. For this, I must suffer extreme physical and emotional suffering that endures throughout every stage of my existence.
I want you to spare a moment to hear the story of my life and death. As a newly hatched baby I and my brothers and sisters were poured from buckets onto the floor of a large shed, tens of thousands of us into that one building. There was quite a bit of room at first because we were small – lively little yellow balls of fluff! I remember running with my little legs, and stretching my little wings. Our ‘peep peep’ vocalisations made us feel good, but it didn’t last. Things deteriorated quickly. As we grew, doubling our size every week, the air became thick with the ammonia from our droppings and our baby chick peeps took on a desperate tone. Soon I could hardly walk a couple of steps in any direction. I couldn’t open my wings and my eyes were always stinging from the thick ammonia and dust. After a few weeks standing or sitting in my own feces, competing with other chickens for the grain and antibiotics put out for us, I lost all hope and sunk into despair.
Nature has given me an alert mind, and my body remembers the life I was designed for. Within me there is still the desire to run with my flock, procreate and care for my young, dust bathe. I want to roam free, to root around in vegetation, devouring seeds and berries, earthworms and insects. I want to feel the wind blow through my rich plumage and be free. My ancestors grew and matured slowly over many months, but the Poultry Industry has bred us to reach slaughter weight in only six weeks, making us lame and debilitated. We are bred to be ‘non-survivors’. Even if we were rescued from this hell we wouldn’t live longer than a year. Every day birds’ hearts give out and they flip over and lie with their legs in the air, or with their faces buried in their own shit. They will be thrown in rubbish bins in the corner of the shed, swarming with flies and filling the air with the smell of rot. We cry out ‘peep peep peep’ like the babies we are, but the humans who walk through the ailes are not moved. To them we are commodities. There is no kindness anywhere, only indifference and sometimes deliberate abuse.
I won’t have long to wait now until I am delivered of my suffering but I am frightened that the end will hurt me too much. Any day now men will come into the shed. They are called ‘catchers’. We panic and try to run away from them, but we have nowhere to go, and are powerless against their mighty strength. They grab us by our legs, four chickens in each hand, and cram us into crates to be loaded onto trucks. Their rough handling dislocates our hips, breaks our wings and legs, and bruises our flesh. For many of us the pain as we travel to the slaughterhouse is excruciating, but even those of us who are not injured, suffer fear and dread at what is about to happen.
At the slaughterhouse they remove us from our crates and shackle us upside down by our feet. The moving line we hang from dips, and we are dragged through electrically charged water bath designed to stun us. Our necks are cut by an automatic heck cutter and then we are given a minute to bleed out before being put in the scalding tank to make plucking our feathers easier. That is how it is supposed to work for the billions of chickens killed by this method every year. But it often doesn’t go as planned. Some of us try to look around and raise our heads at the wrong moment. We are not stunned, and go on to feel the pain of the blade that automatically severs our neck. Some of us also miss having their neck severed, and endure the final agony of being plunged alive and conscious into boiling water. Drowning fully conscious in boiling water is what terrifies me the most. Will I cry out in agony or will my fate have rendered me so passive that I stay silent while the water burns my flesh?
t’s over now, my life. Like billions of others, I was anonymous. Nobody saw that I was smart and loveable. But now you know who I really am. I hope that next time you are in the supermarket you will linger over my corpse, and ask yourself a question. Is your desire to gnaw on my wings, thighs and breast really worth putting me through all this? Is there not a better way?