What are the lives of chickens that are farmed for meat and eggs really like? And what can we do to improve them? We’ve put this list together to help you answer these questions and more.
We know people like to take in information in different ways. That is why there are two books (one for adults and one for children), two documentaries that are available on YouTube, and an online article in this list.
Educating ourselves is the first step to making better-informed decisions and we hope you enjoy learning more about chickens.
1. Leah Garcés, Grilled (book)
Leah Garcés is the former US Executive Director of Compassion in World Farming and is the current President of Mercy for Animals. She has dedicated her career to fighting for the rights of factory-farmed animals in America and, along the way, has worked with groups on all sides of the debate from activists and protestors to farmers and business owners. Hence, the sub-title of this book is ‘Turning Adversaries Into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry.’
Grilled is Garcés’ account of working alongside people with massively opposing views to her own on animal rights. She has endeavoured to always find common ground, engage in constructive dialogue, and work collaboratively with these different groups. Garcés is focused solely on creating change and her methods demonstrate the power of working together despite our differences.
Grilled is a story of animal exploitation and the fight for their liberation but it is also, as her own website puts it, “a story of the power of human connection, and what happens when we practice empathy toward our enemies.”
2. The Trouble with Chicken (documentary), 53 minutes
In this 2015 documentary, correspondent David E. Hoffman investigates the spread of dangerous pathogens in meat – particularly chicken. The Trouble with Chicken focuses on one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks in history in which the chicken meat from Foster Farms caused over 600 people in the US to become seriously ill over 16 months. During this period, Foster Farms was operating entirely lawfully and met all of the requirements for minimising the risk of Salmonella contamination set by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
Through his investigation in this documentary, Hoffman concludes that the laws around Salmonella are completely inadequate from a public health standpoint and that the poor conditions of the chickens raised for meat are one of the main contributors to the risk of meat-eaters becoming ill with Salmonella.
The Trouble with Chicken covers the farming industries and their regulations specifically in the US. However, a Campylobacter epidemic in New Zealand has very similar origins. This domestic public health crisis hits closer to home.
3. Leslie Crawford, Gwen the Rescue Hen (children’s story)
Leslie Crawford won the Northern Lights Book Award for Children’s Literature of Exceptional Merit for Gwen the Rescue Hen. Crawford uses this book to make the realities of factory farms and the intelligence of chickens accessible to children. This is a heart-warming story about a chicken, Gwen, discovering her full potential when she escapes from the factory farm where she was raised.
Gwen is raised in a large egg farm where she lives with no knowledge of the outside world or what her life could be if she were not trapped. Gwen, like all other chickens, is not an egg-laying machine which is what she has been treated like by the chicken industry.
Her adventures begin when a tornado hits the egg farm, offering her a chance to escape. Gwen uses her wits and, obviously, her chicken superpowers to evade danger until she meets a young boy named Mateo. Together, the unlikely friends discover the true potential of chickens.
4. Cock Fight: One Man’s Battle Against the Chicken Industry (documentary), 40 minutes
Cock Fight: One Man’s Battle Against the Chicken Industry is the story of Craig Watts as he opens up on the injustices to workers and animals that he has seen throughout his career as a chicken farmer in the US. Craig Watts allows cameras and presenter Mariana van Zeller into the farm in which he works and presents the reality of his own life as well as the lives of the hundreds of thousands of chickens that he raises for slaughter each year.
Watts is a whistle-blower for the cruelty to the animals and the workers responsible for them that are common practice in the chicken industry. The documentary follows Watts as he exposes the reality of chicken farming and the subsequent backlash from his employers against his fight for the freedom of animals as well as his own.
5. RNZ, Pressure on Takeaway chains as Domino’s ditches ‘fast chickens’ (news article), 10-15 minutes to read
This article covers Domino’s Pizza’s recent pledge to follow the Better Chicken Commitment by switching from abnormal fast-growing chicken breeds to healthier breeds. Following an exposé of footage from a free-range chicken farm in Aotearoa, many companies are being urged to follow Domino’s and make the same commitment.
The article covers the suffering experienced by unhealthy breeds of chickens and how the Better Chicken Commitment alleviates this. It also includes statements from our Executive Director Marianne Macdonald, General Manager of Domino’s Pizza Cameron Toomey, and Executive Director of PIANZ (The Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand) Michael Brooks.