Where are you?
Three rows of masks hang on the wall. Barbed-wire encircles the building. Enormous sets of fans bang. Machines power on intermittently, then without warning, shut-off. And the wire floor you're standing on is bizarrely slanted.
How long have you been here? A day? Years?
You're confined. And the doors to the building? Locked. Fear fills you. You're beyond frustrated -- you're on the verge of madness.
You can see and sense and hear tens of thousands of others just like you. They're close, some crammed right against you. Some are dying; others are deformed. The stress of this place has sparked violence -- and in rare cases, even cannibalism. Thousands have already been suffocated in massive plastic bags; thousands more were sucked through iron pipes, then electrocuted.
And now for the frightening part.
Look down at your body. You see two dime-sized bruises on your right side, and blood streaks on your legs. Your eyes burn from ammonia. Parts of your body responsible for touch and taste have been, ah, removed. And why are your toes blackened?! Despite all of this, the potential for joy still lives in you, and maybe in some small way, you sense that. And that awareness makes this precise moment all the more jarring.
And the smells in this place! It smells like a fleet of dump trucks emptied vomit and urine on a landfill, then doubled back for another drop-off.
All that is natural: spending time with your family, taking a walk with friends, or just simply exploring the world outside? Gone. You've been said to be innately gregarious. That you're sensitive and social and remarkably intelligent. You're an instinctual problem solver, too, except this problem -- at least for you -- is absolutely unsolvable.
Cruelty feeds and thrives on abstraction.
Empathy -- the ability to immerse ourselves inside the world of another -- depends on us to consciously take the abstract, and make it real.
But, where are you now? What are you?
You're in a cramped wire cage behind the walls of a factory farm. You're an egg-laying hen, and now the story -- at least for you -- ends in soups, pet food, or similar low-grade products in which your body will be shredded to hide your bruises from... us. And for every egg we buy, a hen is forced to endure these exact conditions.
This is the kind of place that produces 99 percent of all animals eaten or used to produce milk or eggs.
When we think of the farms that raise animals for our food, this is not what we envision. Without exception, though, when we eat food that flows from these animals factories, we're supporting all of this.
This system of factory farming fears craves our ignorance -- but it also fears our empathy. Which one will you give them?