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

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 the country. 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 fat fucking 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 no secret that this job is extremely frustrating for me, not only for the losses like this that are unavoidable yet consume me anyway. This work has not provided me with the basic needs for survival over the eight years I have worked as director full time. In addition, I feel like it has stolen every semblance of a normal life from me, making it nearly impossible to see how others just get to pay rent and eat anytime they want or perhaps have a home address or relationships with family and friends. It’s fair to say I hate it and most days would rather not wake up than wake up to do this work in spite of my intense passion for the animal rights mission itself and the love I feel for each and every one of these rescues.

My honestly about this tends to be rather abrasive but I am just fresh out of fucks for upholding the fantasy that rescue work is a career choice for anyone but fucking idiots. The hero worship nonsense of animal rescue media is so far from an accurate picture of the job itself and it kills me to think anyone would actually choose this life based on that rubbish. The loss and anticipation of loss is excruciating every day and it takes its toll. Waiting for yet another of our babies to die consumes me. It’s like stress, crisis, and death are just part of my job description and there is no escape because replacing me is impossible since no one with half a brain would do what I do while living like I do with the salary I barely exist on. I no longer have family members I am on speaking terms with and the idea of a date with a live human male seems almost comical at this point. On a daily basis, we are contacted by unbelievably stupid people who write with no punctuation, all caps, or just emojis to make me scream silently every time I look at their messages and comments about saving doggies in Vietnam. Racism and speciesism are standard in our days of dealing with the public. Nothing ever really progresses and most days feel like I am drowning. Being a vegan organization in a sea of fuckwits who “love” animals but condone their torture and murder for a fucking sandwich makes this job much worse than I could have ever imagined when my young, idealistic, and heavily-caffeinated self started this rescue. I hate that the only thing that keeps me going is an insane passion for a failing cause for animals that most of the planet cares nothing of in a country most people cannot find on a map, but there are no other choice for me or these animals.

When I am really upset about the way things are going, I think of my girls, my hens, Louise and India. I think of our pigs Julian and Lola and of all the many amazing ducks and chickens we have cared for before. I think of the cows we tried to save and failed. I think of the billions on the planet that are treated as inanimate objects, ingredients, and profit. To over 90% of humans and almost all “animal lovers”, these animals are not even sentient beings. They are just here to be used by people and no one even considers it. I think of all these little beings and how few humans give a damn about them as anything other than what they are used and abused for. These little beings at our shelter are my family. They are my blood. Their feathers and their little piggy snouts are the same as the paws and tails of the other rescues. I would violently protect them if necessary. If anyone even looked at my pig son the wrong way I would castrate them with my bare hands and feed them their own testicles. I am the fiercest of mama bears and regardless of how the public thinks that makes me batshit insane, it is them I am protecting these animals from and there is nothing that will stop me from that. I despise the daily work I do, the mindboggling fuckwittery I am up against, and the life I live to do it, but I would do anything for these babies because most of the world would do anything possible to keep harming them. I resent having to even write this with any measure of defensiveness. 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 that 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 the vets with any interest or understanding in caring for them, we are still a vital piece of the animal rights movement and a counter balance 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 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 of us who understand that each animal 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.




Venmo: @vnanimalaid


Network for good:



Cat Besch is a ferocious animal activist, pig snuggler, amateur vegan chef, and runner who is the founder and director of Vietnam Animal Aid and Rescue-US.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Catherine Besch

Cat Besch is a ferocious animal activist, pig snuggler, amateur vegan chef, and runner who is the founder and director of Vietnam Animal Aid and Rescue-US.