The hardest part of being responsible for another’s life is not death. It is burial. It is digging a hole, laying in a body, and covering it with shovels full of dirt. It is the finality of loss enacted through putting someone underground. We live with rescued chickens, and our constant affection for them all is inextricably linked to a wariness and worry over their well-being. Coriander came to us in the spring of 2014, with her “sister,” Beatrice, and several other hens. She was an Easter chick who, like many others, quickly wore out her welcome and was abandoned. She was a beautiful being, whose bond with Beatrice was a joy to behold.
We also experienced unfading moments with her, such as when she would plant herself firmly in the middle of a plate of treats in order to block her flockmates with her body. Bonds are always flexible, of course…
The victimization of hens begins before they are born and is carried in their bodies until death. All for the sake of human consumption of eggs, these wonderful beings have been manipulated to lay at such frightening rates that their bodies are virtually ticking time bombs. (The wild ancestors of modern chickens lay 12-15 eggs per year, solely for reproduction. The hens whose eggs we steal lay between 250-300 annually, and typically live for only a few years before they die.)
Whether a hen is in a battery cage, on a “free-range” farm, or in a backyard flock, the biology is the same…the exploitation is unchanged.
We understood this quickly after starting to rescue chickens. The knowledge of impending death does not ameliorate the experience of it, of course–especially when those who die are innocent victims of human greed.
We brought Coriander inside to care for her and keep her warm when she started showing signs of discomfort. Despite constant care and attention, her body could not handle whatever she was struggling with.
I have been carrying a great deal of rage around since losing Coriander. Since burying Coriander, honestly. It is a non-specific rage–there is no particular target, though there are some very clear causes behind her death–which makes it all the more frustrating.
What I constantly circle around, though, is how hard it is for me to see veganism, animal rights, and the totality of oppression outside of the impacts human society has on individual bodies. In caring for, losing, grieving over a tiny fraction of these bodies, it becomes utterly impossible not to telescope one hen’s short life and devastating death. I cannot but replay her burial and try not to choke on the absolute repugnance I feel towards human privilege, mentalities of domination, and a convenient apathy that keeps our hands bathed in blood.
There is no solace in knowing that Coriander had a better life (and death) than many of her species. Our sanctuary is not a bucolic place of joy where no one suffers or where death, when it happens, is a quiet nodding off to sleep.
Our joys are like clay-footed gods, always.
9 thoughts on “In Memory of Coriander”
I’m so touched by this and I’m so sorry for your loss. Despite never meeting Coriander, I feel the hot angry tears stream down my face anyway from your words. And I circle the same thought process on what impact (if any) any of my/our actions have on individual bodies. It never seems like enough.
I read this and I can’t leave without saying at least something.
Thank you so much, MeShell.
Thank you so much, MeShell. 🙂
what did you do w/ Coriander’s eggs?
We feed all of our hens’ eggs back to them, usually by hard boiling them and mashing them up on a treat plate. On a practical level, this is just about the best way to replenish the nutrients lost by the hens when they make the eggs; without that nutrition, they run into many serious health problems, many of which will likely be fatal. To learn more about eggs, this is a good article to read: http://freefromharm.org/eggs-what-are-you-really-eating/.
Philosophically and ethically, returning the eggs to the hens is a good idea because the eggs really belong to them, not us. The hens love eating eggs, and due to the biological manipulation by humans, every chick is born programmed to suffer from being a hyper-active layer. Thus, stealing the hens’ eggs for our own use would be unethical and harmful to them.
“Victims of human greed…” Unfortunately, human greed is the cause of all evil 😦
I am deeply touched by your words and I am so sorry for your loss, but at the same time I am happy I came across such beautiful people full of empathy.
May Coriander rest in peace.
“…our constant affection for them all is inextricably linked to a wariness and worry over their well-being.” Yes. My partner and I have rats rescued from a lab, and this describes our experience perfectly. And a good vet for “exotic” animals is already hard to find.
Your point about their suffering being biologically engineered is disturbing. It’s a good reminder that animal welfare reforms can only solve so much, when profit has been coded into the animals’ DNA.
Thanks for your comment, Joe. How awesome that you have rescued lab rats! And yes, it is deeply disturbing when you realize what has been done to the animals’ biology. It really seems like a crucial point to be making, as well as clear indicator of the harms done during domestication.