The Plight of a Chicken Mom

My daughter is about to go into surgery tomorrow and there is a good chance it will kill her. She could die not because what she suffers from is necessarily deadly, but because the doctors who are treating her have not learned anything about how to help her because she is not like other patients they have. She is a patient that has no rights to them or to the people who taught them in university or in clinics after graduation. This patient is often considered to not have any feelings or thoughts of her own even by doctors in the profession of treating patients like her. These doctors do not think she is supposed to live more than a couple of years at most. While other patients in this hospital are treated as family, she is treated as property. Others like her are treated as slaves and as machines to make profit from, including the doctors in this clinic where she will go under the knife, but she was lucky enough to be my daughter and that life was not meant for her. My baby girl is treated as something to be consumed, not someone who wants to live free from pain and suffering like all the other patients in that clinic who are in beds next to her. The families of the other patients see her as something to be abused by their loved ones, devoured by them even. Many others like my little princess are victims of the people in this clinic, both clients and doctors, and yet this is the only option she has.

She will be an experiment for everyone at this clinic as no other mom has brought a daughter like this to actually be treated rather than just in a soup or on a sandwich. My chicken daughter, India, is a victim of her own species, born into a life in which she was among 50 billion others like her who are part of an industrialized system of torture and murder that is perpetuated by veterinarians, industrial giants, backyard chicken farms, and “animal lovers” around the world. She has never given a flying fuck about any of that because she never had to as she was only 2 weeks old when rescued by a volunteer and brought to live out her life under a blanket of love and adoration.

And now she is nothing more than an experiment. If she were a dog, this would be a cut and dry process, no guesswork, just in and out, stitch up and go home The sedation protocols would be standardized, she would have a team of people around her with extensive knowledge of her species, and she would be comforted by the familiar sounds of people who cared. But that’s not what happens when a chicken goes to a vet clinic almost anywhere in the world. Would they care about her if she was more brightly colored, more endangered, more talkative? If she were a parrot, a species with many books on their veterinary care published about caring for them for a lifetime, would she stand a better chance? Who do they need her to be to be considered worthy of proper veterinary care?

Part of the problem has nothing to do with vets, but everything to do with the economics of chicken farming. Broiler chickens built to become a KFC sandwich live only 40 days before their brutal deaths. Egg laying hens who suffer for eighteen months before they slow down their production of eggs are seen as nothing more than machines in that time. They are raised by the hundreds of thousands in both cases, and their individual needs are not even considered until they remove their lifeless corpses from their pens if they do not survive the full growth and production period. Humans want our meat to be cheap and to have tons of it, so this is how this system works for profitability and production quotas. There is not a chicken farmer on the planet who would see a sick or hurt chicken, put it in a carrier, and drive to their nearest vet to have it checked out, get tests, and then provide the bird with the appropriate medication or procedure if needed. Not a single one of them would spend more than $20 on their care because they’re worth only what profit they can bring the farmer. They would not risk taking a loss on a bird if they could avoid it. Better to wring its neck than pay a vet. This is true of people with hundreds of thousands of birds as well as backyard chicken farmers. It’s just so rare to see a chicken in a vet clinic with a chicken mom or dad who actually cares about healing them at any cost solely for the well being of the animal.

The universities that teach veterinary medicine will only touch on the ways to make this industry murdering 50 billion birds a year more profitable, not more humane. Vet students are taught about digestion, nutrition, reproduction, and slaughter, none of which involves a bird living more than two years. They will never see a chicken in their clinical practice unless working with an exotic or avian clinic. In this process, we never have the opportunity to learn about how to make each individual animal the healthiest it can be for the longest period of time, so they do not develop drugs for this, procedures, or treatment plans. While there are sadly only a handful of vet practices on the entire planet that are run by vegan vets and vet staff, and my former clinic in Hoi An was one of those until it closed, there is still little impetus for vets to become experts in treating rather than eating chickens. We only know how to make more chickens, make them fatter and faster with egg production, and how to kill them, so when one escapes this system, they are still totally screwed. Even being able to live a great life with someone who sees them as being valuable as their own little beings has very little access to veterinary care that focuses on their longevity and comfort. There is no escape even when they escape, so now my little girl faces the consequences of being born into the hell of her species.

Today I feel like I am sending my child to pedophiles and murderers and it feels absolutely horrible. I think of how they will talk about her there, maybe mocking her, maybe hurting or scaring her because they just don’t know any better or care. In an organization’s clinic in which only two species matter in their welfare-centric messaging, I find it extremely difficult to allow them to see our other species as clients. It is not because I question their education or experience as internationally trained vets, but because I am concerned that they will never give a shit about the non-pet species who are blood to me, life itself, and they will not put the same effort into their medical care as they would a pet species client. That makes me want to put my fist through a wall just writing it. I do not want vets who are not vegan- vets who are actually my pigs, chickens, and ducks worst enemy- to touch my animals any more than I would want a doctor convicted of child molestation to touch my kid. This is actually a pretty reasonable thought process for a good parent. I am a great chicken mom and it makes me a raging bitch. I just can’t reconcile my love for my chicken daughter and my distrust of vets who won’t stand up for her species and would be happy to have her in a meal. To not want to put my head through a brick wall would actually make me insane in these circumstances.

I just want India to be OK, and maybe to teach these vets that ALL species matter. I want the vets to learn about India as a person, a patient, a living sentient being who values her life above all else and who deserves to live. I want them to remember what she looks like on the inside and what worked and what didn’t. I want India to be the first among thousands of their chicken clients over their careers, all loved and adored by chicken mom’s like me. Hopefully India will be fine and the vets will learn something from her, but if she does not pull through, I know that I gave her all I could to make her life as good as we could there in Hoi An. In seven years of life I know she enjoyed her time, had friends, ate great food, and enjoyed the sunshine as she should. Hopefully she will come home and live a few more years, but if not, I hope she is released from this world that has seen her as nothing more than an ingredient and profit machine while we kept her hidden in a home of nothing but love and freedom. I hope on the other side there are only vegans waiting for her.

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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.

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Catherine Besch

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.

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