I’m walking through the aisles in the pitch dark; as I shine my flashlight I cannot even see the end of the aisle I’m in. The dirty particles in the air from the filthy and dusty cages fly in front of my face. I feel a deep sadness aching in my chest, then my heart sinks to my stomach when I see the thousands of eyes turn and look at me, their little faces, scared, confused, many distressed and in pain. As I’m walking forward, I turn to another investigator and say, “Do you smell that? It smells like rotting cheese.” I start looking around to find where the smell is coming from, and then finally I see her. At the very bottom row, in a cage, a corpse lies in front of me. Her body had become one with the cage, her bones and flesh had become ingrained with the wires. She was so deformed and covered in filth that if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might have mistaken her body for a big pile of feces and urine. But I recognize the remains of her body, and sadly, she is the first of many just like her to come that night.
Focused, the team and I go on. There are so many bodies that I lose count. Then we see her, the one with mangled feet. She is the lucky one tonight. She is the one who will be given the care and home that she deserves. She will get to experience kindness, sunshine, and most importantly, love. We name her Ava, and we take her out from the machine. But the rest of them, the ones we leave behind, they are the ones I will think of day after day. I am haunted by their endless suffering and cries in my mind, the fear in their eyes … these are things that linger like a constant fog in my mind. I’m outraged and heartbroken that all of this torment and pain is inflicted on them simply because of the bodies into which they were born.
When people think of eggs, some of the first images that come to mind are things like a breakfast omelet, or vibrant multicolored Easter eggs. No one thinks of bloody eggs, no one thinks of death, yet this is the exact truth of what eggs are. They are the products of a cold, restless, unfeeling, life-sucking machine that relies on the good faith of consumers to thrive. A machine that uses deceptive labels like “humane” to normalize violence in our society.
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But there is no “humane” way to exploit someone like Ava, breaking her body day after day for eggs. No “humane” way to treat a living, sentient being like property, inflicting pain upon them until they die. No “humane” way to keep someone trapped inside a shed their entire life, denying them the simple pleasure of the outdoors. This machine does not ensure equity for chickens like Ava. This machine strips individuals like Ava of their identity and personhood, and in doing so, desensitizes us into thinking that inflicting violence upon individuals like her is justified, but it is never justified. This machine makes us forget what it feels like to love others, regardless of our differences.
Deep down in our hearts, we all love animals, and want to do the right thing for animals. We know in what manner we should treat other living sentient beings. We know we should treat others how we wish to be treated. We love all types of animals, not just cats and dogs, but chickens, cows, pigs and fish too, but we have lost sight of that. We have forgotten all the similarities that we have with these beautiful chickens. We all have beating hearts, families and communities, the ability to feel the same emotions, such as love and fear. Most of all, we have forgotten that these chickens have the same passion and desire to live full, happy, safe and free lives, just as much as us. We have the capacity to remember what love feels like in our hearts, and the moral responsibility to give animals the lives they deserve.
I got to leave, but they don’t have that choice; they can’t end their agony. So in my heart, in my soul, I remember them, I remember them. I vow to do more, to do everything I can to help them, because I would not wish this kind of pain on anyone, and it is the right thing to do.