For those who have ever wondered what it is like to be a chicken — or what it's like to use virtual reality — the animal rights activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have you covered.
A crew from PETA's virtual reality team (yes, PETA has one) swung into Philly on Thursday, giving passersby a taste of the life of poultry.
It wowed some, made one little girl cry, and convinced one woman to complete her transition to vegetarianism — all in the span of 45 minutes.
The exhibit is called "I, Chicken." It's a short, immersive experience that lets uses see through the eyes of a chicken that is plucked from a field, caged and then taken for slaughter.
This virtual chicken didn't get slaughtered, but it was on its way. And it was able look back and see bodies of its friends who died en route to the slaughterhouse, and saw the carcasses of others coming down a conveyor belt in the form of wings and thighs.
The chicken could also read — because the word "slaughterhouse" was clearly emblazoned above the bird's.
"They got me in chicken jail," said Forrest Smith, 39, of West Philadelphia, who really liked the virtual reality experience, but was less concerned with the message. "It was cool, but I really like Chik-fil-A."
The project uses Google Cardboard, which is, essentially, a piece of cardboard that folds in a way to create a viewer. Users can slide a smartphone into a slot to play a video that moves with the user — so the perspective changes when people turn their heads left or right or up or down.
This is PETA's second version of "I, Chicken." Another version made the rounds of college campuses last year.
It's not as gruesome as some of the videos that PETA puts out through its undercover work on factory farms, but it did convince Veronica Ross, who remembered gathering eggs on her grandmother's farm.
"That's crazy," said Ross, 58, of West Philadelphia. "I grew up on a farm, and we never did stuff like that."
She's given up pork and beef for health reasons, but the image of the slaughterhouse made her re-think the chicken dinner she'd had the night before.
"I don't want to eat meat anymore," Ross said.