by Investigator John Eudaly
Surrounded by the sound of hundreds of dead insects crunching under our feet and the odor of feces and decaying flesh, we walked to the exit. I cringed as we passed mountains of cages filled with hens, some who were crawling with insects and others caked with congealed blood. My eyes burned with images of birds with mangled beaks, open wounds and feathers dirtied with their own waste. Approaching the door to the manure pits, two trash bins hooked the corner of my eye, and I decided to investigate the filth-encrusted cans. To my shock and disgust, both were filled with dead, rotting hens.
As I examined the piles of these once living, feeling creatures, I saw one open her eye. I lifted her out of the mound of dead hens. She was motionless and could barely lift her head. She had been stripped of every natural instinct, tortured daily for maximum output until she had met her capacity, and now she was the egg industry's trash.
I cradled her in my arms, and I thought of the countless hens who would have to be left behind, living in misery as production units. This life in my arms was one of many, too many to count, too many to name. But in the swirling wind of emotions, I felt safe in the eye of the storm, knowing that tonight we would be able to save one life. I felt proud knowing that we would be affecting change for at least one of these beautiful creatures. If I was going to make a change in this little life I had in my arms, I had to suppress the feelings of anger and grief and carry her from the filthy, horrible place in which she had been forced to suffer. With this fragile hen in my arms, I stepped out into the cornfield.
With the wet grass under my feet and her body resting gently in my arms, these seemed to be the beautiful beginning moments of a new life, the opening scene to the next chapter. But as we left the sheds, and the lights surrounding the farm became dimmer, my mind returned to the immeasurable anguish. I found, however, inspiration in the strength of spirit she had, fighting for each breath atop dozens of her companions who could not find the muscle to live another day.
I wish that those moments in the cornfield would have been the start of a long and healthy life for my rescued hen. Sadly, the exhaustion of endless nights of torment inside the factory farm caused her death days later. Though it breaks my heart to think of her death, I also feel grateful in having the privilege of introducing her to a taste of freedom and a peaceful resting place. I feel at ease knowing that she had the chance to stretch her wings and walk freely, and that she lived, even for a short time, with people who cared about her well-being rather than her egg productivity.
Her life up until we arrived had been an endless nightmare of physical pain and emotional stress. But now, when I think of the little hen that defiantly clutched a life that would have been so easy to let go of, I realize that she was a symbol of hope for our movement to succeed in winning a better life for all sentient beings.