Words spoken for the victims of the chicken industry


On 17th August SAFE held a powerful vigil in Auckland to commemorate the millions of New Zealand chickens that suffer short and brutal lives when raised for meat. The vigil was part of Don’t be in the dark, SAFE’s Stop Factory Farming month this August, drawing attention to the hidden suffering of animals in New Zealand and around the world.

There was real emotion for those taking part as a minute’s silence was given to consider and attempt to get a sense the reality of what is being done to these animals. The following are the words spoken on the day about why we were doing this.

A vigil

Up to 90 million chickens are killed annually for their meat. It’s a number that’s hard to comprehend.

We have 90 people here together today with the bodies of 90 chicks  – each represents up to a million other birds that will be killed this year. 90 million chicks which live short and brutal lives.

On a typical farm chickens raised for meat are confined in their thousands inside large windowless sheds at a stocking density of 19 birds per square metre.

Modern chickens have been selectively bred for fast growth. This has created a genetic freak that suffers from major health problems such as lameness, leg weakness, heart disease and ‘sudden death syndrome’. The chicks reach slaughter weight in only five or six weeks.

Nearly 3.5 million chickens on meat farms die annually of health problems before that six weeks. That’s almost 10,000 every day.

38 per cent of New Zealand’s chickens experience difficulty walking, they go lame and many die of hunger and thirst as they can no longer reach their food and water. Their legs are just too weak.

The birds that survive to 6 weeks stay alive with the use of antibiotics administered in their feed.

Because of its genetic problems a rescued chick, if it was rescued, is unlikely to live past a year. A natural lifespan would be 6 or more years.

These birds you hold came from a regular chicken farm, like any other; they were found already dead, lying on the ground, some just a day or two old. One among thousands in the shed. They are just baby chicks, even the bigger ones; none are older than five weeks. 

What does it say about us as a human species to treat another species in this way?

I personally find this one of the most disturbing animal welfare issues.

Not just its immediate welfare, but to change the genetics of the bird with selective breeding in such a way that causes such suffering – it is truly unethical.

Chickens are the largest number of animals farmed in New Zealand and the number is growing. Over the last 20 years, annual chicken consumption has doubled.

The industry feeds and promotes a growing demand for chicken products – not a need, just a consumer want.

Are Kiwis asleep?  Are we just ignorant? How can this happen?

People don’t see where these chickens come from. We are here today to open the door on this hidden industry. We are here to stop the factory farming of these animals – all animals. These animals deserve our compassion and respect.

We ask New Zealanders to boycott all chicken products, all chicken meat. Due to the unnatural genetic make up of the bird, there is currently no commercially produced chicken product on the market that could be described as ‘humane’.

Chickens on so-called free-range chicken farms are of the same genetically deformed stock, the same parent birds. They suffer the same health problems, and also live just 6 to 8 weeks. 

We ask for consideration for this animal, we ask for respect, compassion.  This body being held was a life. It was a life that had an interest in living, a will to live. It is our loss as a human species that we didn’t recognize it while it was alive.

Today we are here to be witness to that life.

Memorial Garden  

The bodies of the chickens were collected from farms in the Auckland region and all died from disease and other health problems. After the vigil the chickens’ bodies were buried in a ceremony at an animal sanctuary and a memorial garden planted.  The words for the memorial say:

Every year in New Zealand 90 million
broiler hens are killed at 6 weeks of age.
Due to horrific conditions many, like the
100 bodies buried here, die even earlier.

They never knew love or kindness.

 We are their voice.

Together we can stop factory farming

It’s important the wider public becomes aware that chickens raised for meat suffer as much, if not more than battery hens, and pigs in crates.  

The welfare disaster that chickens suffer for the meat industry has been hidden for too long, and we look to put it under the spotlight – so everyone can be witness. A consumer boycott of all chicken products is the only effective way to end this suffering, once and for all. We look forward to seeing change on this issue, real and longterm.

Eliot Pryor
Campaign Director


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