chatty's story - a personal account of a meat chicken rescue
Being a longtime vegan and animal rights activist I've seen more broiler-farm images than the average person. It's possible I've become desensitized to the imagery. So I figured when I entered my first broiler shed I'd know what to expect. I was wrong. The reality was sadder than I'd expected. I left that night with an intense feeling of hopelessness. On the drive home I watched the houses we passed and realized they were full of people unintentionally complicit, paying to perpetuate this industry of despair.
Upon first stepping into the shed I noticed how spongy the ground was. I looked down and initially found it hard to identify what I was standing on - green stuff? On closer inspection I found it to be a layer of sawdust, covered in around a centimeter of excrement. My first realization was that these chickens walk, sit, eat and live, all day and all night, in shit.
As I moved about the shed I noticed the intense - almost deafening - sound of enormous extractor fans that regulate the environment. I was overwhelmed by the sound and immediately realized how agitating it must be to listen to that all day, every day, of your life. As I continued walking I was hit with waves of heat and a sharp, pitchy ammonia scent; I found it hard to distinguish the origin of the source but it made me feel nauseous, it burned my eyes and throat. I notice some chickens cannot really get up and move. These chickens have damaged legs (from growing too fast) and find it hard to reach the ever-raising feeders, so they slowly die of thirst, disease and hunger. They just end up lying in the aisles waiting to die. Sometimes, their bodies become deformed, or the antibiotics they are fed aren't powerful enough to counter the effects of living in excrement, so every chicken in the shed will either die in this way, or at slaughter.
I noticed chickens tumbling and clawing over bumps in the ground; I almost stumbled over one myself. I looked down and discovered the source of that burning ammonia smell, bloated, dead bodies. Not only do these chickens need those antibiotics because they live in shit, they also walk, sit, eat and live all day with the dead bodies of their friends, rotting in the heat. Suffice to say the whole scenario was pretty grim. I wanted to get out of there after 30 minutes;I can’t imagine what it would actually be like living in there.
Eventually I came across a chicken, another "number" dying in squalor. Unlike some of the other nearby chickens in their last epileptic spasms of death nearby, this guy seemed to be doing OK. I alerted my friends to him and we decided to rescue him. I tucked him in my shirt and as we were leaving we found two more in a similar state and took them with us too.
As we were leaving we had to be quiet - this was an open rescue after all - but he was nattering! Hollering! It was probably scary for him! All the ride home he was peeping and making his presence heard, so I called him Chatty. We arrived home and put food and drink on the table to try to get some desperately needed fluids and food into Chatty and his friends. Chatty's friends ate and drank but Chatty was too weak; he wasn't able. We tucked them up in a cosy bed for the night in preparation for their trip to a sanctuary the next day.
I woke in the morning to a Facebook message; Chatty died in the night. I knew it was possible, Chatty's condition was poor. The hopelessness I'd felt the night before overwhelmed me; we have so much work to do. I feel in my lifetime I have truly seen it all now - humanity's best and worst; and this was the worst. The work I’ve done in the last 8 years was confirmed. I now know I will never stop speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves. The only good thing was that Chatty's friends survived.
Those sheds are an abomination, an animal-holocaust is taking place and the people of this country sit in their houses chomping happily on these birds, giving no consideration to the way they live and die. If hell is a place, then hell-on-earth is the broiler shed. It is a place of no hope. We need to shut the industry down, and we need to do it now.
Read about chicken farming in New Zealand on our website.