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, which follows:
Dear Ms. Bobo:
I am the Executive Director of Free from Harm, an organization that conducts animal rescue, advocacy and education programs. We have rescued and rehabilitated many individual chickens who were victims of the egg and meat industries. They are magnificent birds with rich and complex personalities.
One might assume that a website entitled “Chicken Justice” and with the domain name would have something, if even just remotely, to do with defending chickens from being the most exploited animal on the planet today, with some 40 billion artificially bred and slaughtered within 42 days of birth every single year.
But no. Justice for chickens is in fact not at all part of the mission of this website or the organization behind it, Interfaith Worker Justice.
IWJ instead claims to be “a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the U.S. since 1996. IWJ mobilizes people of faith and worker advocates in support of economic justice and worker rights at the local, state and national levels.”
Now, I would be the last to fault any organization involved in some form of social justice, whether it be justice for workers, animals, communities or the environment. There are clear connections between all forms of justice and all forms of oppression and violence. Indeed, there are numerous empirical studies that demonstrate the link between violence to humans and animals. All forms of violence should be consistently condemned. And working to end one form of injustice often works to help end all forms of injustice.
The problem is that IWJ apparently has no objection to slaughtering chickens per se, only the injuries and casualties due to the workers involved in slaughtering them. In fact, the call to action on their website reads, “Tell the USDA and Obama administration that we demand clean and safe chicken.” Let me assure you that this claim is absurd to anyone who understands fully just how chickens are bred, raised and killed today.
This disconnect between human and nonhuman animal suffering is utterly incomprehensible. How, one might ask, can an organization maintain such a blind spot for the unimaginable suffering of 40 billion individual birds — 9 billion in the US alone — in their efforts to fight for worker rights? In the end, IWJ’s advocacy on behalf of workers is undermined by their denial over the suffering of chickens.
And how IWJ determined that it was appropriate to call its website or project “Chicken Justice” is beyond my comprehension as well. Did IWJ really think that most people would not see how misleading this is?
Ms. Bobo, please don’t sanction one enormous form of injustice in the process of fighting against another. The slaughterhouse industry is an industry that profits on suffering and death of animals we have no biological need to eat. It just doesn’t make sense. The workers is in these industries would be far better off in another area of work, and perhaps your organization would do well in helping their transition to a less violent and dangerous occupation.