Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chickens and widgets...

There is a huge problem in the Northwest and Midwest with avian flu. Millions of chickens and turkeys are being 'depopulated' because migrating wild water fowl are leaving droppings with the virus in them and they are being tracked into chicken and turkey farms by human beings.

I listened to an hour of reporting on the situation on 'On Point' on NPR. Lots of Ph.D.'s and Veterinarians and professors who are experts on domesticated birds. The thing that struck me most was how they all spoke of chickens and turkeys the way people with talk of widgets and paperclips--mere products.

There is federal money to compensate 'farmers' for chickens they euthanize, but not for fowls that simply die. So when the flu is discovered, it is financially advantageous to simply kill all the birds rather than see how many of them avoid the virus.

The language used by all the experts and most of the 'farmers' did not in any way indicate that chickens and turkeys are living beings. They are only products!

Wild birds don't die from the virus the way domesticated birds do because of genetics. They just sneeze and ache a bit and poop out the virus as they fly to their summer homes.

I've been putting '...' around 'farmers' because if someone has 5,000,000 chickens raised inside, they aren't farmers...they are 'factories'. So no wonder these birds become 'products' rather than living things.

We already only buy eggs that are 'cage free'. Now I think I'll only buy 'free range' chicken--trusting that the government truly certifies that they are 'free range', even though it's a lot more expensive.

I have no 'touchy feel-y' connection to chickens and turkeys. I grew up around my grandmother's chickens and ducks, but had no emotional bond with them. But I've always acknowledged that they are living, breathing, feeling creatures.

I watched my Grandmaw kill chickens quite a few times. She would pick them up and cluck to them and rub them, and then, quick as you could imagine, she twisted their heads off and threw them ten feet away to pout blood from the neck and then die. Then I'd see her pull off the feathers and burn off the pin feathers at her wood stove, the smell made me queasy.

I didn't eat chicken until I was an adult.

If I had to kill my own meat protein, I'd be a vegatarian.

I should ponder that, I suspect....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.