Earlier this month, a Missouri state representative, Mike Moon, slaughtered a chicken on video to launch his antiabortion bill through a Facebook blitz. Did his act of animal cruelty help his cause, and if so, was it justified?
Why did he do it? He didn’t need to videotape killing a chicken to convince antiabortionists, so was he targeting ambivalent voters who still support a woman’s right to make her own decision? How many viewers saw, in Moon’s killing of the chicken, the killing of a human fetus? How many saw the chicken as ethically comparable to a human being at any stage of human development? Rep. Moon made it clear that he did not.
How many people, besides animal advocates, related emotionally to the chicken being killed by a man claiming by his action to affirm life’s sacredness? I assume Moon’s support for “life” does not include life in general, but only human life, particularly white, American, preborn life.
Whatever his motives, this is what he did: He filmed himself mercilessly beheading and eviscerating a chicken to dramatize the deliberate killing of a human fetus to draw attention to his bill to ban abortion in Missouri. The chicken he killed was chosen as a kind of metaphor for a human embryo or fetus being, in his view, wrongfully destroyed.
According to the dictionary, a metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to something as being the same as another thing for rhetorical effect, or it may be an act or an object regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.
In the case of a perceived wrongfulness, the purpose of a metaphor is to generate concern and inspire action on behalf of the victim or victims one seeks to draw attention to. When the abuse of an individual or a group is used metaphorically to illuminate the abuse of another, justice requires that the abuse that forms the basis of the comparison be comprehended in its own right and not used merely as a figure of speech, a mere point of reference. It may not be treated as of lesser value than that which it is summoned to represent.
For Moon, the chicken had no inherent interest or value but was merely an instrument to focus attention on abortion. Animal advocates were appalled, but did anyone feel that, since this appalling act had already been published on Facebook, it might at least have the redeeming value of encouraging some or many viewers to empathize with chickens and maybe stop eating them?
Several years ago, an English celebrity chef named Jamie Oliver (I’m pretty sure it was him) killed one or more chickens on his show to demonstrate something about “food” production, and there were animal advocates who semi-applauded his brutal performance for at least “educating” people about the slaughter and suffering of chickens. Some deemed it queasily acceptable to “sacrifice” a few chickens publicly, if watching them suffer and die would cause some viewers to become vegetarians or vegans as a result.
A committed vegan activist friend told me about a workshop he recently attended where a butcher slaughtered a goat to teach Do-It-Yourselfers the “proper” and “humane” way to kill a goat. He said it was very sad, yet he felt that for this very reason it was worthwhile to sacrifice one or two goats if by doing so, people would experience firsthand the killing and pitiful dying of a “real” goat and quit eating meat.
I get the point, but I do not agree. I imagine that few people who think the abuse of a nonhuman animal is a justifiable, if sad, way to teach people how animals suffer in being abused would apply the same logic to staging the killing of a human being in order to teach people that killing human beings is a terrible thing to do. Quite apart from the fact that it would be illegal, the question is whether we find it acceptable to intentionally harm an individual or a group instrumentally in order to illustrate the wrongfulness of hurting and killing others as a matter of principle or of fact.
Rep. Moon’s killing of the chicken to get voters to pay attention and support his antiabortion bill shows, in my opinion, that when we actively engage in, or assent to, the deliberate abuse of another “for a good cause,” we are making a mistake. If the victim so used is a nonhuman animal, such as a chicken, and we accede to such use as having a potentially “positive” outcome for chickens generally, surely this is a speciesist position, unless we agree that the moral logic of “useful abuse” is equally applicable to human beings, including using a few to demonstrate that killing nonhuman animals under most circumstances is wrong.
Sign this Care2 Petition urging Mike Moon to Resign:
Tell Missouri Lawmaker to Resign for Decapitating Live Chicken in Facebook Video!