An Animal Rights Poem from

Caged Contemplation By Mary Elizabeth Rosa

How much do you need —
my tail, my beak, my wings?
How much do I need to give
before I take
a long awaited breath?

You know me only
in relation to your plate.
Your hunger.

And after you remove my brain, my eyes,
and I sit blind with a nameless ache
(you say I can’t describe anyway),
who do you become?

Who do you think you are?

When you finish devouring me
with all my unnamed pain,
I will still be
with you,
filling you
with an emptiness
that bites again and again —
a mordant ache
you will never be able to name.

chicken cerebral cortex

In 2012, a British architecture student suggested excising chickens’ cerebral cortex to desensitize them to horrific factory conditions. By leaving their brain stems intact, he said that the birds could continue to grow, while removing their feet would allow more chickens to be stacked in large vertical steel frames. Removing their eyes would render them even more amenable. Pondering the implications of these “solutions” for humans as well as the helpless chickens inspired this poem.

I’m submitting this poem for the International Respect for Chickens Day campaign because I respect and support respect for chickens, all creatures, ourselves, and our planet. 

©Mary Elizabeth Rosa, 2022

Originally published in United Poultry Concerns' May 2022 "Poultry Press."

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