The Loss of a Rescue Chicken and the Battle for Her Kind

Catherine Besch
5 min readOct 12, 2021

India, our beloved rescue chicken, passed away this weekend.

Louise mourning her best friend, India, before burial on our shelter property.

India was seven and half years old, likely among the oldest chickens in Vietnam and one of few allowed lifelong sanctuary. She had been with us since she was only a couple of weeks old when a volunteer bought her from the market while she was crammed into a basket on the back of a motorbike for sale with dozens more chicks just like her. She was small, but luckily strong, and she very quickly grew into a voluptuous and stunning bird. She was never a snuggler, and we respected that. She had her thing just like all the other birds we have rescued and we all just gave her her space and fed her what she wanted and cared for her when she needed it. She was very much her own person and was distinctly different from every other bird we have had. India was a big flirt with the neighbor roosters who all came and went as they grew and were killed, and she was a fine friend to her buddy Louise who raised her from a chick. She was one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen, and frankly, she seemed aware of this.

As she aged, I knew her size would make it hard for her joints and she would have reproductive issues. She began to have issues with fluid in her abdomen in 2019, then 2020, and I was sure each time we would lose her because heaven forbid any vet know how to help a chicken rather than just cut up their bodies to feed their hypocritical faces. This fluid issue restarted this summer, and we managed to get through it, but we knew this was not going away. When she finally just sat down, stopped eating, and grew weaker, we knew this was it. She was surrounded by loving people who knew her as a person like all our other little persons at the shelter of many species. Inside our gates, she was our little princess and there is nothing that matters more to me than protecting that.

India mattered. She will always matter. Her life was important and her happiness was everything to us. We are grateful to have known her as the little person she was.

It’s maddening that I have to even consider how the news of India’s death will be perceived or how the crocodile tears will fall about her death from people who would still eat others like her. I wish I could just mourn her loss and ugly cry myself to sleep the same as I do for the dogs and cats, but her life and death hold so much more symbolism that it’s hurts differently.

I was recently contacted by a large welfare organization asking us to join their campaigns for cage free eggs. Needless to say, I reacted with a very aggressive “no” bordering on “go fuck yourself”. The idea was truly absurd that as a chicken mom, a vegan, and an animal rights activist I would ever condone putting animals into situations in which they are going to continue to be tortured and murdered with a few more inches of space for something no humans need. India needs me to fight for her and for 60 billion like her, not for the consumers and producers that still think she is an ingredient, not a sentient being. There is no right way to torture, exploit, and murder someone, no matter how much money the animal-eating donors throw at you. There is no donation big enough that will buy our integrity and our promise to defend ALL animals, not just the ones donors don’t eat. India’s eggs were not for anyone but her. Her body was hers and hers only. We were her caretakers, her parents, not her owners or prison wardens. We have an obligation to protect and defend these animals, not sell them out to the people who want to harm them and be given a gold star for eating cage-free products of someone’s suffering.

To be the only rescue organization in Vietnam that not only rescues farmed animals but refuses to stay silent about their suffering is not a small job and it is nothing even approaching fun. Every time someone tells me I must have a dream job or thanks me for my work, I clench my fists and grind my teeth and do my best not to pin them to the ground and scream in their face. This job is hard work for all of us from both the daily hard labor to the administrative side. But defending these animals is important even if we face a lot of backlash and are dismissed as lunatics by the vast majority of rescues in the world. Even if we only have a few farmed animals now and cannot take more due to being resource-poor and lacking vets with any interest or understanding in caring for them, we are still a vital piece of the animal rights movement and a counterbalance to the hypocrisy in the animal welfare world that dominates the public discourse on animal advocacy.

For India, this one little feathered life, we were the most important thing in her world aside from her own self-interest, and that matters. There is nothing that will stop me from fighting for her until my dying day. Because of this work, I have nothing which ends up being advantageous because when you have nothing, nothing can be taken from you. If I have already had to lose it all for this, I have nothing left to give up for these animals so digging in for them is just all that I can do. They are always going to be worth fighting for. I know there are more people out there who understand that and we know we are on the right side of history by maintaining moral consistency and standing up for ALL species. We hope that by standing our ground for animals like India, we are empowering others to speak up for all animals as well. We need an army on our side who understand that each animal, regardless of species, deserves our protection.

I will never forget my little girl, India. She is always going to be with me in this battle for her kind. She was such a precious little thing and we will never be silent for her.




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Catherine Besch

Cat Besch is a ferocious animal activist and pig, chicken, dog, and cat mom who is the founder and director of Vietnam Animal Aid and Rescue-US.