Yesterday morning on my walk home from the gym I saw something no one should have to see, and for that matter something that should not even exist: hundreds of young chickens crammed wing to wing, beak to beak in cages in the back of a truck. The truck was stopped at a light and I had to stop too in order to safely cross the street. I looked over and made eye contact with one chicken in particular. This chick stared at me with the most penetrating look I have ever seen, human and animal alike. He quickly started chirping and stuck a wing out of the thin cage bars and tried desperately to escape his fate. These birds may not know what their exact, horrific fate is, but they sure as heck know it is not good.
Seeing that bird I felt helpless like never before. I have never felt such a strong maternal instinct, or such undeniable fury at the fact that the world could discard these beings that way. These young babies—still with soft yellow down–were terrified, and we humans allow this to happen every single second of every single day. My heart was breaking for these fluffy little chickens who were so scared that they would have rather thrown themselves onto the pavement than travel a second more in that truck. I don’t know where they were taking the chickens—but in Korea, there are vendors selling fuzzy yellow chicks outside of elementary schools. These are chicks that they culled because they were male (roosters don’t lay eggs, so they are discarded), or because they were sick and likely to die, and kids buy them for mere cents. The good kids of course would try to raise them as pets but the mean kids would try to “fly” the chicks from high rise apartment buildings, which sends them crashing to their deaths. But no matter–the truth is they nearly all die within a few days of purchase, and yet the vendors always come back with boxes of new chicks, again and again.
So many questions arose when I saw that truck this morning. How can this be? How can it have come to this? What is wrong with the balance on this planet that we can continue to live our lives while these animals suffer in such squalor? I cannot answer these questions but I can say one thing: That special chick gave me more strength than I have ever been able to muster on my own. I will not back down. I will be their voice. People already love animals, and they know theoretically that there is something wrong with the way we raise and eat meat, but most of them don’t stop to connect the dots–that while they adore the pictures of little chicks for their Easter decoration, they are simultaneously condemning millions of other chicks to their deaths. There is a serious disconnect in the way we view the nicely and cleanly packaged chicken breasts at the supermarket and the torturous and terrifying plight of these animals. And sometimes what we need is a visceral experience to truly understand that we each have a personal responsibility. I have never so plainly seen the truth nor felt so strongly that I was doing the right thing than I did at that moment. And I hope that all of us will embrace the discomfort of seeing the truth.
Illustration: Peaceful Dumpling