I’m So Sorry, Little Hen

Reprinted with permission from All-Creatures.org and with gratitude to the author.

By Bryan Monell, May 2019

She was exhausted and laid her head
down on my boot and closed her eyes.

The other day I happened to pass by a chicken slaughterhouse in the middle part of the U.S. where I worked undercover as a live hanger 21 years ago. It was a nightmare experience. I am constantly reminded of one little hen who fell off the conveyor belt at my feet.

She was thoroughly exhausted and laid her head down on my boot and closed her eyes. I tried not to move my boot, and while I was hanging up countless other chickens, every couple seconds I was focused on trying to figure out any way possible to rescue her. The only thing I could have done was to pick her up and make a run for it, but they would have caught me long before I made it past the barbed wire fence surrounding the slaughterhouse.

After we had finished hanging that one batch of chickens, I had to pick her up gently and place her on the hooks, upside down, knowing I had just sent her to her death which would take place in another minute or two. I think I saw a look of sadness and betrayal in her eyes towards me.

It haunts me to this day. I think of her often. I stopped by the gates to the slaughterhouse and thought of her and the others. I did a quick calculation. If the slaughterhouse has kept up the same numbers over the years, they have killed somewhere between 325,000,000 and 600,000,000 chickens since I was last in the live hang room. This is not a huge operation by industry standards; it’s in the midsize range of slaughter for a major brand.

I believe if everyone had met that one hen who fell asleep on my boot, the overwhelming majority of people would never eat another chicken and we could shut down these death factories.

I’m so sorry, little hen. You are long gone. The people who ate you and shit your remains out have no memory of you, but I will never forget you, as painful as it is to remember you.

Your memory has helped me keep things in perspective and to realize what is really important in life. – Bryan Monell

Tyson Chicken Slaughter Plant
These six-week-old female chickens are about to be tortured with paralytic electric shocks before their throats are cut with mechanized blades.
Photo by L. Parascandola taken at the Tyson chicken slaughter plant in Richmond, Virginia.