November 17th in Prague, an effigy of a burning pig was paraded down the street to protest a pig factory farm in Lety on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp. The occasion was the Czech state holiday called the Slave of Race (Otrokem Rasy). The spectacle suggests that the pigs are viewed — not as innocent victims of another atrocity — but, callously, as a nuisance and an insult to the dignity of a past human atrocity
The icon of American culture that was once hunted to near extinction has now been bred for one of the trendiest new flesh products. Broken Wagon Bison Farm outside of Chicago offers visitors a chance to pet and feed gentle and friendly bison and then visit their store where they can stock up on bison flesh products and fashion apparel made from their skins and bones. Here you have yet another variation on the Orwellian fantasy of animal husbandry.
In between new condo loft rehabs, nightclubs and hipster shops and eateries, the slaughterhouses and meat packing plants of another era still loom large in the Lake Street Market district of Chicago. This was the scene of our demonstration for World Day for Farmed Animals in front of Grant Park Packing Company yesterday.
While most of us are preoccupied with what everyone else is doing and thinking, the message of the Matrix mirrors what Sophocles also taught millennia ago: think for yourself. The only way out of the mental prison of the Matrix is to question what you’ve been taught. Overcome denial and face the truth. And then stop supporting slavery in all of its manifestations because it is the very reason why the Matrix got you under its spell in the first place.
Having discovered a website called chickenjustice.org, I was eager to determine the organization behind it. But what I discovered there had little if anything to do with chicken advocacy. Instead I discovered some strange twists and turns in their campaign that claims to “save chickens” and help poultry slaughterhouse workers, and I felt compelled to write the following letter to the organization’s executive director, Kim Bobo.
When a sanctuary spends $50,000 of its hard-earned donations to transport 1,150 “spent” egg-laying chickens who have seen nothing but the inside of a battery cage across the country to give them a second chance at life, some people say things like, “it should be illegal,” or “what a waste of resources” or “are these people crazy?” But when the poultry industry spends millions shipping live chicks in the mail and makes a big profit on their lives to boot, no one has a problem with that.
What legacy are we leaving behind? Mountains of waste? Cows living among our own waste? This photo speaks volumes about the future of food. It represents the reality behind animal agriculture’s goal of feeding the world’s population. According to the industry’s own analysts, “Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area…”
“Meat” is the language of objectification — an attempt to turn a “someone” into a “something.” By referring to an animal as “meat,” the meat industry seeks to create a moral vacuum in the minds of consumers, a complete disconnection between the animal’s identity and their flesh product. “Meat” is their packaged commodity, presented just like all the other products on the store shelves, divorced from the living individuals they once were
Don’t look back. Don’t look forward. If you imagine living the life of a sheep born in 2013, your short life was marked by encounters with callous and desensitized humans who had a price tag on your head before you were even born. Humans bred you artificially into existence. University geneticists meddled with your genes to “optimize” your body’s fleece production. Farmers broke up your family and stole your children. Your fleece was sheered by machines that bruised and cut your skin, and then sold for profit.
Visiting a sanctuary is a vastly different experience than visiting a farm. Farms value animals to the extent that they produce a profitable product via their flesh, mammary gland secretions or ovulation. Visiting animals on farms does not produce any “breakthrough” in our understanding of animals. On the contrary, most people simply walk away from a farm reaffirming what they have been taught: animals don’t object to being used as “resources.” It’s natural and sanctified by ancient traditions.
In stark contrast to Ganzert’s pious performance in the informercial, this new Foster Farms happy chicken commercial portrays chicken puppet characters that are just ecstatic about the AHA humane certification program. The marketing gimmick reminds us of the Tyson Foods commercial depicting chickens in front of a dressing table and mirror, as if getting dolled up to go out on the town. In both cases, humor and denial are powerful tools used to mask the violence and oppression at the core of animal agriculture.
By allowing his chickens to live 5 weeks longer than those raised on factory farms and by allowing them a few hours a day to forage on a pasture, the farmer interviewed in this video claims that he raises “happy chickens.” He is cheered on by enthusiastic YouTube followers who are naively seduced into believing that chickens are simple-minded animals who can actually have fulfilling lives when raised on a bucolic-looking family farm.
I’ve seen a lot of media coverage lately about salmonella and backyard chickens. The Center for Disease Control has issued specific guidelines for backyard chicken keepers for avoiding salmonella, claiming that salmonella is “common” in chickens. But is the media sensationalizing the issue, blaming chickens for a problem that really belongs to their breeders and scaring people away from having contact with chickens?
Last week I asked esteemed journalist and agricultural history professor James McWilliams to write an open letter to the Northwest Indiana Times regarding their sensationalized coverage of the new Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms. I want this letter to coincide with Pig Adventure’s highly-publicized grand opening on August 5th. The McWilliams letter, which is posted below, will soon be available online for those who would like to sign on and add their comments. We will deliver the signatures and comments posted to this open letter to both NWI as well as Fair Oaks Farms Communications Director, Jed Stockton.
Imagine waking from a nightmare where you were picked up by your legs and turned upside down. You thrash wildly to try to release from the grip of your captor. But resistance is futile. There is no mercy, no regard for your life. Your last conscious moment of life is the terror of being thrown into a gas chamber and your body comes out of the other end of a machine that grinds up your corpse into ground meat. What I’ve just described to you, and what you will see in this video if you watch it, is not a nightmare but the reality behind what humane meat advocates describe as “a humane way of producing chicken meat from live chicken.”
I found NWI Times’ coverage of Fair Oaks Farm’s so-called “Pig Adventure” both disturbing and disgusting — not just for its blatant glorification of factory farming, but in how uncritically NWI appears to have “rubber stamped” the Fair Oaks Farm press release without looking critically at this tragically absurd “public exhibit” of animal exploitation and suffering. Why does NWI withhold any opinion on such a nightmare scenario for animals in the very opinion section?
As someone who rescues, raises and advocates on behalf of chickens, one of the biggest challenges I face is getting people to see the chicken BEFORE the egg. Even many of those who are fond of chickens and keep them in their backyards, see them first as egg-laying machines, as if to ovulate on a daily basis were their primary purpose for existence. Our perceptions are heavily distorted by egg-industry marketing that has relentlessly “dumbed-down” the chicken’s identity since the 50s.
Narratives and descriptions claiming that animals make sacrifices for us date back to our earliest recorded history and would have us believe that animals give their consent to be violently killed for a “greater good,” such as to provide us with sustenance or at the request of a higher power. However, to sacrifice oneself means to act freely, to make a conscious choice from a variety of circumstances.