Books·The First Page

Farmed by Glen Chen

Farmed by Glen Chen is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Glen Chen, 14, is a finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge 2022. (Submitted by Glen Chen)

Farmed by Glen Chen is one of 13 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category for 2022.

Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. More than 1,800 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley and be announced on May 31.

Chen, 14, a student at St. Robert Catholic High School in Thornhill, Ont., writes about factory farming.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content.


"We found this planet 150 years ago. The first thing ancient explorers noticed was the nitrogen-suffused atmosphere. The second was the absolute abundance of meat.

This animal covered the entire planet. When the first explorer cooked and tasted one of them, he famously said: "This tastes like profit."

And how it did.

The second fleet soon came. They were merchants; companies coming to mass-farm and harvest this exotic animal.

Researchers found the most efficient way of farming them. We put four of them in a cage and they're fed slop made of various fats. Every week, we check up on their cages to remove carcasses and feces.

When they're born, we cut off their fingers, teeth and toes so they can't hurt each other. Upon reaching optimal weight, we ship them to their slaughterhouses. The vehicles can't directly put them inside the slaughterhouses, so we prod them in.

The animals live in cages for their whole life, and the one time they see the light of day is when they're walking to their deaths.

The slaughter process is actually quite ingenious. They're hung by their legs, and a blade swings by at exact intervals to slit their necks. The next phase of the process, being dropped in scalding water, is in their eyesight.

This animal covered the entire planet. When the first explorer cooked and tasted one of them, he famously said: "This tastes like profit."

Seeing this, the animals would rather die by the blade instantly than be dropped in scalding water. This process was invented by one of the people at our farms. It's good for the animals, because they choose to have their necks slit. They die in a healthy manner, opposed to being boiled.

Anyway, once they die from blood loss, their carcass is dropped in a vat of boiling water. This removes all the hair and miscellaneous undesirable parts. Of course, the ones that try to live a little longer are simply boiled alive. From there, it's just cutting and shipping each of the body parts to different places."

The tour guide took a breath, checked his notes, and motioned to us. "Any questions?"

One of my classmates whispered something and pointed at the display animals in the cage next to us. One of the animals ran over to the transparent screen and began to bang on it. The tour guide laughed, and so did we. "What are they called?" One of my classmates asked.

"It slipped my mind. Those," the tour guide said, "are humans."


About The First Page student writing challenge

The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2172. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by bestselling author Sarah Raughley. 

A writer and lecturer from Southern Ontario, Raughley is the author of the YA Effigies series — which includes Fate of FlamesSiege of Shadows and Legacy of Light — and the fantasy historical novel The Bones of Ruinfor ages 14 and up.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2022.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 free YA books. Special thanks to Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.

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