Chicken meat. One of the most accessible meats available. One of the cheapest meats available. The meat that women on a diet reach for. The meat you can have in your sandwich for lunch, for your roast dinner or in your salad as a snack. Having not eaten meat for nearly 20 years now, I have heard this many times – “What? You don’t eat meat? Not even chicken?!!”. No, not even chicken. You see chicken meat actually comes from a little animal who can feel pain, who can make decisions, who can make emotional connections and who is essentially not that different to us. Chickens are thinking, feeling sentient beings yet they are treated as nothing in our society by the majority of people.
Chicken meat does not come from an ex-laying hen who has had a good life and it does not comes from a chicken who has had years of free range freedom. Chicken meat comes from baby chickens, chickens as young as 5-7 weeks old who still chirp and still have baby blue eyes. These selectively bred chicks are hatched and then put straight into massive sheds that can hold up to 40,000 – 60,000 chickens per shed. A farmer who has many sheds on his property can “grow” several million chickens per year. These chicks are left to their own devises for the next 5-7 weeks of their lives…the only 5-7 weeks of their lives. The sheds are lined with automatic feeders and waterers. As the chickens grow, the room for each chicken gets smaller and smaller. Chickens are trapped in their own waste. Chickens die slow and painful deaths from respiratory disorders due to constantly breathing in air from an uncleaned shed.
Broiler chickens have been selectively bred over many years to grow incredibly large in the shortest amount of time possible. At 5 weeks old, a broiler chick looks like an adult bird. Because of these rapid growth rates, many chickens in these sheds will become crippled due to their bodies being too large for their legs to carry. They wont be able to get up and eat or drink and will slowly starve to death. At 5-7 weeks when it’s time for them to be slaughtered, the chickens are roughly picked up in bunches by one leg and thrown into a transport truck. At this point, it is the only time these lovely birds ever get to see the sky….and it will be their last that they get to see it, all because humans believe their tastebuds are more important that an individual’s life.
Broiler chickens have a very special place in my heart. I’ve found them to be gentle, sweet individuals who create loving and emotional bonds with their friends and the people who care for them. They grieve deeply for their best friends and find comfort in a human who protects and nutures them. To rescue broiler chickens from their fate is a rewarding, yet also heartbreaking undertaking. To see these lovely chickens enjoying the sun on their faces, eating grass and dust bathing is a pure joy. But, to see them struggle with their enormous weight and know that one day soon you will loose them due to their massive bodies and all the health problems that go along with that can often be a heavy burden on your heart. Taking on broiler chickens, you need to know that one day very soon you’ll be burying them because of their genetic problems. To be able to bury a broiler chicken with respect in their favourite spot in the garden is always so difficult, not only because you’ve lost a very important family member, but also because you know about the billions and billions and billions of other innocent and sweet individuals who never get the chance to be buried. Their bodies are eaten instead of being laid to rest.
The broiler chickens in these particular images are only a week old. Curious, innocent and sweet, all they really want at this age is a mother’s comfort, protection and love – something they will never know.
This series is a work in progress and will feature broiler chicken sheds full of baby chickens ranging between the ages of 0-7 weeks old. I very rarely use black and white in any of my images, but this series seems to call for it. It symbolises the lack of colour in these chickens short lives. They experience nothing.They are born. Fattened up. Killed. Then eaten. Eaten with the the utmost disrespect. They are treated as nothing. They are not nothing. They are each an individual like you or I, yet, they are born to die.
Please don’t use my images without permission. All images are Copyright Tamara Kenneally