Chickens' Lib

Chickens’ Lib, founded in the UK in 1973 by mother and daughter team Violet Spalding and Clare Druce, was the first animal protection organization to focus specifically on chickens.  The organization initially focused on the plights of battery hens and broiler chickens, purchasing birds from both industries in order to show government officials the birds’ sad states.  Chickens’ Lib later addressed additional issues including the turkey, foie gras, and dairy industries, under the name Farm Animal Welfare Network. 

In 1989, Chickens’ Lib cofounder Clare Druce published the first book exposing the horrors of the UK chicken industry, titled Chicken & Egg: Who Pays the Price?  In 2004, Druce published Minny’s Dream, a book for children in which a young girl befriends and rescues a hen from a battery facility. 

Druce also testified on behalf of Chickens’ Lib as an expert witness in the McLibel case[1] regarding the treatment of chickens used in McDonald’s products.

While Chickens’ Lib/ Farm Animal Welfare Network disbanded in 2010, its legacy continues in the many activists and organizations it launched into action.  Clare Druce hopes that her newest book, Chickens' Lib: The Story of a Campaign, published in 2013, will continue to instigate change.

 

Interview with Clare Druce, Founder of Chickens' Lib

This exhibit asks three main questions: How do we as a society view chickens?  How do we treat chickens?  And who are chickens really?  How would you personally answer those questions?

In general, chickens are still regarded by most as stupid and not a species to feel fond of, in the sense that cats and dogs are, for example.  Society treats chickens with total disregard for their welfare, though it must be assumed that even after all the sustained campaigning by many, most people know little of the background to the rearing of chickens for eggs or meat. Even now there is gross ignorance, proved by the fact that even in quality newspapers and magazines articles about meat chickens are often accompanied by photos of battery hens, and vice versa. In reality, chickens are as individual in their characters as any other animals (humans included, no doubt) though the signs are less obvious to the casual observer.

 

Have you always had an interest in chickens?

Definitely not. My interest in and appreciation of chickens grew with closer acquaintance. The reason that our pressure group concentrated on chickens (and specifically on hens trapped in cages) was that abused chickens were relatively easy to buy and transport. My interest in factory farmed animals in general had been sparked off by reading Animal Machines, Ruth Harrison’s brilliant book, with a brilliant title, published in 1964.

 

What was your opinion of chickens before you got to know them?   What, if anything, surprised you as you got to know them as individuals?

Before I got to know chickens I regarded them as part of a general scene of farm animals. As a small child I spent many idyllic holidays in Sussex, deep in the countryside, where I got to know various types of poultry, goats, dairy cows (all but one of them very gentle) and I loved them all.  I was surprised to note the obvious differences in chickens’ characters, as I got to know them, and what struck me forcibly was the fact that despite generations of caged life, hen from batteries immediately reverted to their age-old patterns of behavior, so proving the terrible deprivation they had endured.

 

How did Chickens’ Lib come into being?

Our pressure group came about because I read Ruth’s book and was horrified. I must have been picking up bits of disturbing information, as I went to the trouble to buy the book, a couple of years after it was published. I lent Animal Machines to my mother, Violet Spalding, and not long after we co-founded Chickens’ Lib.

 

Can you describe Chickens’ Lib’s tactics and approach to activism?  What are some highlights of your campaigns?  What victories are you most proud of accomplishing?

Our tactics were to show the end-suffering of battery hens to the public, and to take the evidence of cruelty to the heart of officialdom – into the Ministry of Agriculture, in London and in the provinces. By buying hens from markets and farms, we quickly formed a picture of the terrible condition of end-of-lay birds. Later, we also were able to buy broiler chickens, or pick up those who’d fallen from transport lorries. Again, we found out a huge amount about their state of health. We always insisted on post mortem reports in those cases where birds died or had to be put to sleep for their own sakes, learning much form these.

The first national highlight of our campaign came when we “won” a slot on BBC television. As a result of our programme we gained several hundred new supporters, who proved invaluable. Much of our work involved producing fact sheets, and urging our members to write to their Members of Parliament and to key figures in the poultry industry, and of course to the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the mid 1990s I was an expert witness on poultry systems for the defendants in the McDonald’s/McLibel trial. In his summing up, Mr. Justice Bell made several important judgments, surely proving that had the case been a criminal one, radical changes would have come about, since he deemed many aspects of modern poultry rearing cruel.

Many other incidents stand out in my mind, as many of our demonstrations were colourful and drew much media attention. One example of these was a series of demos at the H Q Goldenlay, a cooperative of battery egg producers. When the Queen gave her Royal Warrant to Goldenlay, we turned out attention to the royal family, and made good progress.

It’s hard to name important achievements: I have no doubt that Chickens’ Lib played a substantial part in furthering public awareness of the harsh facts of intensive farming. Sadly, the fact remains that even where we most hoped for a victory – a ban on battery cages – that has turned out to be far from complete. I believe that the enriched cage is as bad as, and in some ways even worse, than what’s now known as the barren battery cage.  There’s no doubt that the battle must go on, worldwide.

On reflection, I am proud of the fact that over the years we made close contact, friends indeed, worldwide, and believe that Chickens’ Lib helped in their early days of campaigning by supplying facts and general encouragement.

 

How has industry treatment of chickens changed since you founded Chickens’ Lib in the early 1970s?

In the UK there are far more laying hens on free range now. Sadly, many are in huge flocks, so welfare problems abound. There’s far more awareness of welfare issues (in the 1970s ‘welfare’ was rarely even mentioned in industry circles) but the industry mind set has changed little. It’s still a race for faster growing broilers, to take one example.

 

What led you to publishing your books Chicken and Egg: Who Pays the Price? (1989) and Minny’s Dream (2004)?  Who are the intended audiences of these books and why?

I’d hoped for a wide readership for Chicken and Egg, especially as it came out at the height of the salmonella food poisoning time in the UK. In the event, it didn’t do well, but over the years I have come to realize it was influential in important places, helping fellow campaigners.

Minny’s Dream is for children of roughly 8-12 years old. Often it’s children in a family who influence the adults. It’s soon to be re-released, and will be available in various systems – as an e book, a Kindle and as a paperback.  And it will have a stunning new cover!

 

Tell us about your upcoming book on Chickens' Lib, due out this year.  What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

My ardent hope is that my book will bring about change. In it I highlight Chickens’ Lib’s firm belief that what goes on in most ‘factory farming’ is in fact totally illegal. A giant step is urgently needed to challenge the very existence of systems under which confined animals are kept. At one point in our campaign we changed our name to reflect our concern for other species – pigs, dairy cows, sheep…

Many so-called food animals are kept in conditions that flagrantly break existing legislation. EU legislation has clearly been formulated to give an impression that animals are spared unnecessary suffering. Therefore EU countries have a framework on which to challenge the way billions of animals live.

I hope that readers, even those in countries with inadequate or non-existent legislation will realize they must not bow down before the status quo. Slavery was once considered vital to the economy of various countries, yet brave and compassionate people refused to be told that slavery and the slave trade were inevitable.

 

What is Chickens’ Lib’s legacy?  What are you working on now?

Chickens’ Lib/Farm Animal Welfare Network officially closed down as a pressure group in 2010. Now, I live in hopes that my book will instigate change. The present task is for my publisher and me to do all in our powers to draw attention to its existence. I have specifically written for ‘the ordinary reader’ and hope that my informal style will ensure that the book reaches a wide audience.

 

Read an Excerpt from Clare Druce's book Chickens’ Lib: The Story of a Campaign:
 
It’s 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and Great Britain celebrates. There’s been nothing like it since the coronation. The Sunday Times Magazine (January 30th) publishes four pages of Hellos and Goodbyes, a selection of significant comings and goings since 1952.

There’s  ‘Hello’ to Dr Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, and ‘Goodbye’ to Ceylon (but ‘Hello Sri Lanka’). ‘Goodbye’ to freedom, after Hungary’s 1956 failed uprising, and ‘Hello’ to the world’s first heart transplant. And it’s ‘Hello’ to Chickens’ Lib.

Under a photo of hens crammed into battery cages, the caption reads: ‘Hens lost out and found themselves trapped in batteries. Chickens’ Lib was founded in 1973.’

In fact, this tiny pressure group, with no proper structure let alone a constitution, had emerged a few years earlier, but it wasn’t until 1973 that we came up with a cracking good name.

Oh how the media loved Chickens’ Lib!

 

LONDON DAYS

 

Parliament Square                                                   

June 27th 1971: Rain is falling, a steady, cold summer rain.

The Press Association’s been alerted. We’ve told them about our protest, said the two of us would be here at 11 o’clock, next to the Canning statue in Parliament Square, with a mock battery cage complete with live ex-battery hens.

I bend down and tweak the plastic shrouding the cage. The birds mustn’t get wet. They’re pathetic enough, without the rain adding to their troubles. Pale combs, scant feathers, the flesh around all four vents an angry red.

We desperately need the media’s help, but a full hour has passed. We’re losing hope.

            “What if we’re in the wrong place?” I say.

             My mother fishes out our press release and checks. Thank God! We’ve not done anything stupid.

            “They’re just not interested,” she says. “Nobody cares.”

            “Give it another half hour,” I say.

*

Five minutes later two figures appear through the gloom and rain, one shouldering a serious looking camera. Oh, thank goodness we didn’t pack the hens back into the van and head for home.

If we had, we’d have missed the Guardian.

*

That same afternoon: The rain had passed over, and London basked in hot sunshine. Still in Parliament Square, we’d erected our cage for people, six foot high and constructed of wood and wire netting. Placards on all four sides challenged Agriculture Minister Jim Prior to take action to end the birds’ suffering.

Five human prisoners stood quietly inside. There was Dr Alan Long, tireless campaigner for a vegan diet, Yvonne Anderson from the Farm and Food Society, Violet and me – and, our star guest, the writer Ernest Raymond, whose 1920s novel Tell England had been a runaway best seller. Perhaps the most powerful among his later books is We the Accused, a dark compassionate story about capital punishment. Violet and I felt honoured to share a cage with Ernest Raymond.

Parliament Square was buzzing now, and bemused Londoners and tourists stopped to stare, many of them supportive. On a fold-up table we gathered hundreds of signatures for our petition to Prime Minister Ted Heath. Best of all, a reporter and photographer from the Press Association turned up.

*

The next day we buy the Guardian, feverishly turn the pages. And we’re in! Reporter Martin Adeney’s article is excellent. ‘A chicken with wings stripped of feathers gave powerful support in Parliament Square yesterday to the campaign against factory farming, which is demanding a meeting with Mr Heath to present its case for more humane treatment of farm animals. The chicken, its neck rubbed apparently by bars so that it looked like a victim of alopecia, was one of four bought the previous day from a battery farm and lodged together in a cage 20x17x18 inches…When (the caged hens) tried to change about, one at least got squashed and pecked – usually the one with wings without feathers…a leaflet handed out said: Many battery hens suffer from respiratory diseases or cancer. The eggs they lay in these fetid conditions probably come to you labelled “farm fresh” or “new laid”. After slaughter, the spent layers, so often diseased, still have their uses. They may become your baby’s tinned dinner, chicken paste, or just a tin of soup.’  There’s a good big picture of the hens too, peering out through the cage bars.

Bars? In fact they’re knitting needles, not even all of the same gauge, my father’s inventive substitute for the real thing. Eccentric our homemade cage may be, but it’s correct in all the important features, including floor slope. (Years later the Guardian ran a general article on factory farming, illustrated with a photo of caged hens. We studied it: something wasn’t quite right with the bars. Ah! The knitting needles again. )

The Press Association has done its good work. The image of five caged humans receives wide media coverage, even, we discover later, in a German newspaper.

 

How it all began

So how did my mother and I come to be there, just the two of us standing beside the Canning statue, on that wet June morning in 1971?

  It was like this:

 Three or four years previously, I’d come upon Ruth Harrison’s 1964 book Animal Machines, a disturbing exposé of how the post WW2 quest for cheap food had led to ‘factory farming’, that cocktail of cruelty to animals and danger to human health.

Shocked, I lent the book to my mother, Violet Spalding. She’d always had a gut feeling for sustainability, long before it was fashionable, lamenting the loss of topsoil, aware of the role of the earthworm. On reading Animal Machines she was as appalled as I’d been. We wondered what, if anything, we could do.

We contacted Ruth Harrison, who told us about The Farm and Food Society (FAFS), a small but influential organisation, well known for valuable research into all aspects of farming, its moving force Joanne Bower. 

At that time our two daughters were small, and with my husband working as a BBC music producer, but increasingly involved in the London contemporary music scene, it was hard for me to get out in the evenings. So Violet attended FAFS meetings on behalf of us both, and was soon invited onto its committee, where she made long-lasting friendships, especially with Joanne.

            But before long Violet’s impatient nature got the better of her. I was feeling frustrated too, and we wondered about a change of tactics. Could we perhaps ‘go it alone’ in some way, and so add a new dimension to present-day campaigning? After some discussion, we decided on our way forward.

*

For fact finding, we’d already put our faith in the power of the pen. Here are two examples of responses to some of our early letters:

September 10th 1969: Ernest Shippam, Managing Director of Shippam’s pastes, wrote to say he would have no problem in taking the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ round his factory, there to discuss the pros and cons of how the company obtained its raw materials.

September 29th 1969: A spokesman for H.J. Heinz Company Limited confirmed that spent battery hens were included in its chicken baby foods, that the meat wasn’t tested for residues of antibiotics, and that no checks were made for the presence of Marek’s disease, a form of cancer.

There’s no proof that Marek’s can be transferred to humans, but who’d want to risk feeding their baby chicken meat contaminated with chicken cancer?

*

Already, we’d made an important decision: we’d limit our campaign to the plight of battery hens*. Maybe their extreme deprivation would be the easiest to highlight; images of hens trapped for life in metal cages, forced to stand on sloping wire, living in semi-darkness, unable to take a normal step, ever…. surely that would resonate with the public?

* I dislike the term ‘battery hen’. It seems to suggest a breed of hen ideally suited to imprisonment, while nothing could be further from the truth. But I’ll use the term throughout, as a form of shorthand.

*

When Animal Machines was published in 1964, around 80% of UK hens were incarcerated in cages, with their numbers increasing. By early 1969 our protest letters were landing on the desks of civil servants and Government officials, fired off from Violet’s home in Croydon and mine in West London. Back came the replies, re-assuring, bland and misleading:

            July 15th 1969: The Minister’s Private Secretary wrote, in response to our complaints: ‘I am sure that it would be true to say that this country holds a place second to none in the wealth of legislation to protect the welfare of animals.’  We reflected that fine words butter no parsnips, legislation being useless if millions of animals continued to suffer.

Worse was to follow: ‘It is true that a valuable export trade in live poultry and hatching eggs has been developed in the last few years. The poultry and eggs that we export are valuable breeding stock and it is greatly in the interest of those who import them that they should be kept in excellent condition in the importing countries.’ No mention here of the likelihood of lower standards in those countries, or a complete lack of welfare laws.

            Months passed, merging into years. Names became depressingly familiar, as the same civil servants were instructed to fend us off. Eventually, our patience snapped. There was only one thing for it! We’d beard the pen pushers in their hitherto safe hide-out, namely the Department of Obfuscation, aka the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), Government Offices, Block E, Leatherhead Road, Chessington, in Surrey.

But first, we needed the evidence.

 

 

 

United Poultry Concerns

United Poultry Concerns, founded in 1990 by Karen Davis PhD, is the world’s leading organization advocating on behalf of chickens and other domestic fowl.  Davis’s rescue of Viva, a chicken discarded from the meat industry, prompted her to campaign on behalf of this largely-ignored species.  Despite the discouragement of other animal rights activists who warned her that no one would care about chickens, Davis began feverishly researching and writing about the treatment of these birds, as well as welcoming avian refugees from the poultry industry into her home.

United Poultry Concerns’ campaigns are numerous, and run the gamut of treatment of poultry.  Notable campaigns include lobbying against the forced molting of egg layer hens, promoting alternatives to school hatching projects, the formation of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, and the initiation of International Respect for Chickens Day (May 4).  However, the organization has taken on everything from the abuse of a turkey by college students to a blogger’s denigration of chicken intelligence.  And it has been successful, both in initiating change and in public outreach.

The organization’s work is not entirely protest-based.  It also rescues chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other birds at its Virginia headquarters, and educates the public regarding the behaviors and intelligence of these species in hopes that knowledge will lead to increased respect. 

Karen Davis, a former English professor, has written extensively on chickens and other poultry.  In addition to her five books, including the comprehensive Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry, she has contributed essays to numerous publications.  United Poultry Concerns has also published its magazine, Poultry Press, quarterly since 1990.

 

Interview with Karen Davis

United Poultry Concerns founder, Karen Davis talks about what it is like to run a sanctuary and what she has learned about chickens. 

 

Virgil Butler

Virgil Butler grew up in rural Arkansas, in “Tyson Country,” and first entered the world of poultry processing as a teenager, when he took his first job as a chicken catcher. After a six-year stint in the military, he returned to his home town of Grannis to find that the only jobs available were in the town’s Tyson plant. Initially hired as a back dock worker, Butler spent the next ten years working various jobs in the plant. He became especially skilled in the position of “killer” – the particularly gruesome job of slitting the throats of the chickens missed by the killing machine before they reach the scalding tank – and was lauded as the “best killer in the state.” Butler quickly found that the horrific slaughterhouse environment brutalized not only the chickens, but the workers, too. Many workers turned to drug abuse in the face of a physically and emotionally traumatizing environment. After meeting his partner, Laura Alexander, and much soul searching, Butler approached People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2002 and reported the conditions at the Tyson plant. He spent the rest of his life advocating for the birds he had once slaughtered and educating the public about the horrors that go on behind slaughterhouse doors. Virgil Butler died unexpectedly in December 2006 at the age of 41, but his legacy lives on in the grisly conditions he exposed and documented.

 

Virgil Butler's statement to PETA, 2002:

My name is Virgil Butler. I worked at the Tyson plant in Grannis, Arkansas from July 1997 until November 12, 2002. I worked on the night shift in the receiving department as a live-hanger as well as on the kill-floor.

I personally witnessed many acts of cruelty toward the chickens by employees of the plant on a nightly basis:

One of the most recent problems that I observed was the night shift superintendent, turning down the stunner and ordering the employees to leave it down. This machine is the device that is supposed to stun chickens before they are killed. Turning it down results in the chickens missing the killing machine and evading the killer behind the machine, so that they end up being scalded to death by water in the scalding tank. The scalding tank loosens up the feathers so that they can be picked out. The chickens are supposed to be dead before they reach this point...

I was responsible for trying to slit the throats of the chickens the machine missed on the nights I worked the killing room. Our line runs 182 shackles per minute. It is physically impossible to catch them all. Therefore, they are scalded alive. When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads. Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they’ve struggled so much in the tank. Sometimes, when we had a line broken down, they would be left hanging upside down in the stunner in the water to drown...

We were extremely shorthanded, due to the horrendous working conditions. This led to a high turnover rate with inexperienced, frustrated workers under pressure to keep the production numbers up. If production fell, it would mean overtime work, so the belt speed was turned up. This resulted in the belt becoming overloaded in the area where the chickens awaited shackling, which ended up smothering hundreds of chickens a night. I heard a supervisor say, ‘I would rather smother a few hundred goddamned birds than to lose time because of empty shackles.’ (This was said in late July 2002 when temperatures in the hanging cage were exceeding 100 degrees in the middle of the night).

The absence of climate control is another cause of unnecessary suffering that results in death to the chickens. The heater in the “cage,” which is the area where birds are hung, worked less than half of the time I worked there. Many times the temperatures would be well below freezing. This resulted in the chickens freezing to the belt last winter and the winter before….My co-workers and I complained about this to a supervisor, but to no avail. He would just turn and walk away. The reverse of this problem happened in the summer time, where there is no adequate air conditioning…This results in the chickens dying of heat stroke, heart attack, and suffocation.

These uncomfortable conditions, coupled with the unrelenting pressure to keep the shackles filled at all costs, lead to much frustration and outright rage among the employees.

I have witnessed a fellow employee build dry ice bombs (made by putting dry ice and a small amount of water in a plastic Pepsi bottle and screwing the lid down tight) and putting it on the belt with live chickens during break time. This results in a high pressure explosion that rips the chickens’ bodies apart and scatters them all over the room. This occurred numerous times.

I have also seen a fellow employee rip the heads, legs, and wings off of live chickens, or just stomp them to death on the floor because he was aggravated. This occurred on a regular basis for about the last year and a half that I worked there.

I have also witnessed a forklift driver run over the chickens on purpose, then laugh about it. These kinds of incidents were ongoing and repetitive--just a part of a regular night’s work.

We were given thousands of chickens to hang that were above the size limit we were used to.... In the process of hanging the live birds, we were forced to break their legs to get them to fit into the shackles. This was unnecessary. The shackles could have been spread out to fit the larger-sized birds... However, one of the supervisors decided that it wasn’t necessary and didn’t want to lose the production time to do it.

I am writing this letter because I want to see something done about this cruelty. I don’t wish to be a part of the nightmare any longer and am willing to speak out about this to anyone at anytime.

 

Virgil's blog entry "Inside the Mind of a Killer," posted Sunday, August 31st, 2003:

An issue not even thought about by most people, even many of those in the fight for animal rights, is the effects on the minds of those people who do the actual slaughter of the chickens. You see, the killing machine can never slit the throat of every bird that goes by, especially those that the stunner does not stun properly. So, you have what is known as a "killer" whose job it is to catch those birds so that they are not scalded alive in the tank. (Of course he can't catch all of them, but we'll get to that.) (Keep in mind while you read this that the plant I worked at was the smallest Tyson had. They have some that are much bigger that run hundreds of thousands of birds a shift. Of course, they have more than one killer, but only one per line. They just run more than one line.)


Picture this: You are told by your supervisor that it is your night in the kill room. You think, "Sh*t, it's gonna be a rough night tonight." No matter what the weather is like outside, this room is hot, between 90-100˚ F. The scalders also keep the humidity at about 100%. You can see the steam in the air as a kind of haze. You put on your plastic apron to cover your whole body from the sprays of blood and the hot water that keeps the killing machine's blade clean and washes the floor. You put on the steel glove and pick up the knife. It's very sharp. It has to be.

You can hear the squawking from the chickens being hung in the next room as well as the metal shackles rattling. You can hear the motors that drive the chickens down the line. It is so loud you could scream and not hear yourself. (I've done it just to see.) You have to communicate with hand signals to anyone who might come in. Although no one wants to. They only come in if they have to. And they certainly don't want to startle you.  Not with a sharp knife in your hand. If you whirled around......

Here come the birds through the stunner into the killing machine. It's time to get busy. You can expect to have to catch every 5th one or so, many that are not stunned. Remember, they come at you 182-186 per minute. There is blood everywhere, in the 3'x3'x20' trough beneath the machine, on your face, your neck, your arms, all down your apron. You are covered in it. Sometimes you have to wash off the clots of blood, without taking your eyes off the line lest one slip by, which they will....

You can't catch them all, but you try. Every time you miss one you hear the awful squawk it's making when you see it flopping around in the scalder, beating itself against the sides. Damn, another "redbird." You know that for every one you see suffer like this, there have been as many as 10 you didn't see. You just know it happens. You hope the machine doesn't break down or falter. You just want to get through the night and go home. But, it will be a long 2 1/2 hours until break time. More than two hours of killing nonstop. At least a couple dozen chickens a minute at best. At worst, a whole lot more.

The sheer amount of killing and blood can really get to you after awhile, especially if you can't just shut down all emotion completely and turn into a robot zombie of death. You feel like part of a big death machine. Pretty much treated that way as well. Sometimes weird thoughts will enter your head. It's just you and the dying chickens. The surreal feelings grow into such a horror of the barbaric nature of your behavior.

You are murdering helpless birds by the thousands (75,000 to 90,000 a night). You are a killer.

You can't really talk to anyone about this. The guys at work will think you are soft. Family and friends don't want to know about this. It makes them uncomfortable and unsure of what to say or how to act. They can even look at you a little weird. Some don't want much else to do with you when they know what you do for a living. You are a killer.

Out of desperation you send your mind elsewhere so that you don't end up like those guys that lose it. Like the guy that fell on his knees praying to God for forgiveness. Or the guy they hauled off to the mental hospital that kept having nightmares that chickens were after him. I've had those, too. (shudder) Very creepy. You find something else to dwell on to try to remove yourself from the situation. To keep your mind from drowning in all those hundreds of gallons of blood you see. Most people who work this room and work in the hanging cage use some sort of stimulant to keep up the pace and some sort of mellowing substance to escape reality.

You become more prone to violence. When you get angry you become much more likely to physically attack whatever or whoever you are mad at. You are a lot more likely to use a weapon than you were. Especially a knife. A sharp one. You are a killer.

You begin to feel a sense of disgust at yourself at what you have done and continue to do. You are ashamed to tell others what you do at night while they are asleep in their beds. You are a killer.

People tend to avoid you, even others at the plant, whether from instinct or because they know what you do and can't understand how you can do it night after night. There must be something wrong with you. You have the smell of death on you. You are a killer. A mass murderer.

You shut down all emotions eventually. You just can't care about anything. Because if you care about something, it opens the gate to all those bad feelings that you can't afford to feel and still do your job. You have bills to pay. You have to eat. But, you don't want chicken. You have to be really hungry to eat that. You know what goes into every bite. All the horror and negativity. All the brutality. Concentrated into every bite.

Many people who do this commit violent acts. They commit crimes. People who already are criminals tend to gravitate towards this job. You can't have a strong conscience and kill living creatures night after night.

You feel isolated from society, not a part of it. Alone. You know you are different from most people. They don't have visions of horrible death in their heads. They have not seen what you have seen. And they don't want to. They don't even want to hear about it.

If they did, how could they eat that next piece of chicken?

Welcome to the nightmare I escaped. I'm better now. I play well with others, at least most of the time......

 

 

 

Tribute to Virgil Butler, former worker at Tyson poultry slaughterhouse who became an outspoken advocate for chickens.

Battery hen rehoming organizations

While billions of “spent” hens from egg facilities are slaughtered every year around the world, hundreds of thousands more have been awarded happy retirements.  Battery hen rehoming organizations in the UK, Holland, Germany, Australia, Canada, and other countries arrange with egg farmers to either buy or simply collect a few hundred hens when they send their flocks to slaughter.  The rescues identify and treat any injuries and illnesses, and then send the lucky birds on to adoptive families.  In this way, they can capitalize on the backyard chicken craze, while requiring adopters to sign contracts stating that they will provide adequate care for the remainder of the hens’ natural lives.  In exchange for tender loving care, adopters have the joy of watching rescued hens “come to life” as they experience the natural world for the first time.

Ex-battery hen rescues do not necessarily oppose the egg industry – although the hens they receive may be in poor condition – and must collaborate with farmers in order to save birds.  The British Hen Welfare Trust, based in Devon, England, describes its goal as “to see [British] consumers and food manufacturers buying only UK produced free range eggs, resulting in a strong British egg industry where all commercial laying hens enjoy a good quality life.”

While US animal agriculture’s culture of secrecy and paranoia has limited the rehoming of industry birds in this country, Grass Valley, California—based sanctuary Animal Place has managed to make arrangements with local farmers to rehome former egg layers through its Rescue Ranch facility.  Animal Place is a vegan organization and does not promote egg consumption; however, it seeks common ground with local farmers in order to help as many birds as it can.

The hens who find sanctuary make up a very small percentage of the number killed when their productivity declines at only a year or two of age.  Because of their battered condition, those who are not rescued are slaughtered for pet food, soup, or other low-quality meat.  Some farmers even find it most cost-effective to simply dispose of the birds in a landfill.  However, for the lucky few, being rescued means they can live out the rest of their lives just enjoying being chickens!