This is the life cycle of a chicken born on a factory farm. I won’t sugar-coat anything for you. These are the cold, hard facts about what really goes on in order for you to get those scrambled eggs in the morning, or that chicken sandwich in the afternoon. For your few moments of pleasure, these sweet little beings must endure a lifetime of torture. Ask yourself: is my inability to say “no” to myself more important than saving the lives of innocent, defenseless animals who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace?
Chickens enter the world in a metal shelf at a hatchery surrounded by dozens of other chicks immediately next to them, and tens of thousands of other chicks in the shelves surrounding them. On their first day of life they are unable to see the sunlight. They are unable to feel the earth beneath their tiny feet. They open their eyes and all they are able to see is darkness.
On their second day of life baby chicks are shuttled along a conveyor belt of death where they are quickly sorted in a selection process that is completely devoid of any kind of emotion. Treated as commodities rather than living creatures, the female chicks are placed on one conveyor belt and the male chicks are placed on another, each leading to their own deaths – one, a relatively quick death, and the other, long and drawn out.
The male chicks are doomed to meet their death within 48 hours of birth. These male chicks have been thrown into a dumpster to die. Others are thrown into plastic bags which are then sealed off to suffocate the tiny baby birds. Most often though, male chicks meet their demise by being ground up alive, with a bucket underneath to catch their pulpy remains. Factory farms have no use for male chicks because male chicks will not grow into egg-laying hens. Their bodies are not considered profitable.
The female chicks are debeaked. This is a process in which a red-hot blade is used to cut off the tip of a chicken’s beak. Chickens will peck at each other in the cramped conditions they are forced to live in, so instead of giving the chickens more space, factory farms have decided that debeaking chicks is a much more efficient and money-saving alternative. Though their beaks seem hard and tough, chicken’s beaks are actually very sensitive. Chickens use their beaks as we humans use our hands. It is their tool to feel the world around them. By taking away that ability, we are taking away their ability to interact with their environment.
The chicks that have survived this process will go on NOT to live life, but to live a tortured existence.
The chicks have grown up fast. These chickens are egg-laying hens, but they are treated like egg-laying machines. Packed at a minimum of six to a cage the size of a piece of scratch paper, the darkness surrounds them yet again to make the chickens less aggressive in their cramped quarters. The people handling them treat them as if they are inanimate objects that are incapable of feeling fear, pain or sorrow. There are no laws to protect chickens against animal abuse. They are some of the most abused animals in the meat industry (along with fish) simply because people have a hard time relating and identifying with the feelings of a bird, in contrast with a dog or cat.
Row upon row of chickens fill up giant warehouses. Robbed of their ability to live a normal life, most will go their entire lives without ever being able to stretch their wings. Many die in the cramped conditions. They are kept like this until their productivity decreases, and then are shipped off to slaughter to become the chicken in soups as well as pet food. Their bodies are so used and wasted that their meat is dry and considered almost worthless.
Chickens raised to be what the industry calls “broilers” are the chickens that you more commonly know as buffalo wings, chicken drumsticks, chicken tenders, etc. These unfortunate animals have a lifespan of only six weeks (roughly 45 days).
During that time they grow to monstrous proportions. This was made possible by selective breeding practices. The chickens grow so big that by the end of the six weeks many of them can barely walk or stand under the weight of their unnaturally enormous bodies. In fact, many farmers know that their chickens have reached a profitable size when they notice that a lot of them are dying of heart failure from the stress their bodies are forced to go through.
The chickens are loaded onto trucks and taken to slaughter. They are roughly picked up by their feet, wings and necks and hurled into metal cages filled to the brim with other chickens. Many chickens don’t survive the journey. This is the beginning of the end, even for the “lucky” ones, who have survived this long.
Chickens are hung by their feet on a much different conveyor belt of death. This time there is only one way out. First they are submersed in an electric bath designed to stun the animals into paralysis. This bath does not reduce any of the pain the birds feel – it only immobilizes them so that they more easily slaughtered. However, not every chicken is sufficiently stunned either because they missed the bath, or because the electric current running through the water isn’t strong enough (to keep costs down). This means that there are many chickens that go on to the next station who are able to flap and squirm around to endure an even more horrifying death than the others.
Next, the chickens are dragged across a spinning blade designed to slit their throats and allow them to bleed out. However, many chickens (particularly the chickens that were not stunned correctly) either miss the blade completely, or are instead cut along their stomachs and wings and forced to suffer even longer at the next station. Also note that slitting an animals throat does not kill the animal right away. It is common for animals to live thirty seconds or longer with their throat cut – long enough to feel the pain of what’s to come.
In this third station, chickens are submerged in boiling hot water to loosen their feathers. No chicken will survive this process. Instead, the ones that are still barely clinging to life will suffer an excruciating death by being boiled alive.
Their carcasses are gutted, cleaned, vacuumed and cut into parts.
The finished product shows absolutely no resemblance to the horrors required to obtain it. Consumers forget that they are buying and eating an animal that was once alive. They forget about the pain and torture the animal had to go through simply so that they can satisfy their craving for flesh. This, dear reader, is gluttony at its worst.
From the moment of their birth in tiny metal drawers in a big dark room to the moment of their death on a spinning blade, these animals’ bodies have been abused and exploited for our own fleeting pleasures. There is no justification for these actions other than pure selfishness, greed and a misguided sense of superiority. Humans are at the top of the food chain, and because of that fact it is our DUTY to care for all sentient beings that share this planet with us. We are their guardians, not their masters. True power lies not in the ability to inflict pain, but rather in the ability to grant mercy to those weaker than ourselves.
If you can bear to watch, these are graphic videos showing exactly what goes on in order for you to be able to have a few moments of pleasure. Note that the images shown in these videos are the industry standard. To the poultry industry, the terrible things shown in these videos are not considered cruel, though any sane person with a heart can tell you otherwise. There are cruelty-free ways to appease your appetite. Educate yourself.
45 Days, The Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken, Part 1
45 Days, The Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken, Part 2