I’ve written before about how badly we mistreat animals on this planet. That while humans should protectors and benefactors in their behavior toward animals, often just the opposite is true. How, especially, the large animals, such as elephants, rhinos, hippos, and apes, as well as the large cats such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc. are rapidly decreasing in population due to man’s greed; and how we may be among the last generations privileged to have these animals populate the planet during our lifetimes. And how the evolution of mankind is still so rudimentary, that most of us still consume dead animal flesh as part of our daily sustenance.
But in this piece I want to focus on the mistreatment of animals in this country. Actually the mistreatment of one particular animal, the chicken. While those that supposedly know say that the chicken is every bit as social, inquisitive, intelligent and human-friendly as dogs and cats, chickens are probably the most abused animal on the face of the Earth. The reason: chickens are used for food instead of pets. So while many pet owners lavish affection and attention on their dogs and cats, the chicken is treated as a commodity, and its short life span is filled with nothing but pain and misery. Attention alert: the following may be too graphic for some readers.
Most of us consume chicken meat or eggs every week, or often on a daily basis. In the U.S., 7 billion chickens are slaughtered every year for their flesh, while 450 million hens are used for laying eggs. Americans consume almost a quarter billion of these eggs, annually. And almost all chickens spend their short lives in rigid confinement and filth until the day they are mercifully put out of their misery. A baby chick on a factory farm will never be allowed contact with, or to be raised by his or her parents. It will never have the opportunity to feel the sun on her back, breathe fresh air, roost in trees, or build nests. Chickens raised for their flesh are called “broilers” by the chicken industry. They spend their entire lives in filthy sheds with thousands of other birds, where intense crowding and confinement can lead to outbreaks of disease. Part of their beaks are chopped off so that they don’t peck away at each other out of frustration and pain. The crowding is so brutal, that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on each other. They are bred to grow up so quickly and so fat, that their legs and organs often can’t keep pace. As such, many suffer heart attacks, organ failure, and crippling leg deformities. Many become so crippled by their own weight gain, that they die because they can’t reach the water nozzles. If they do survive to 6-7 weeks old, they are then crammed into cages and shipped off to the nearest slaughterhouse. And then sold in supermarkets as another commodity in our capitalist system.
Chickens exploited for their eggs are called “laying hens” by the food industry. They are forced into cages so narrow that they’re unable to spread their wings. After their bodies are exhausted and their production drops, they are also shipped of to the slaughterhouse. But by this time their bodies are so bruised and battered that they can only be used for chicken soup or cat and dog food. I could go on-and-on with more bloody and horror details, but you should be getting the picture by now. So what got me to writing at this time about the misery and cruelty inflicted on these poor animals? Well, it seems that there’s a pretty interesting case wending its way through our court system regarding the way we mistreat chickens.
California, in an effort to prescribe some degree of humane treatment toward chickens, passed a law not too long ago, that requires larger cages and more room for laying hens. Right now, laying hens are crammed into cages about the size of a file cabinet drawer. As I said, there’s no room for them to spread their wings. The new California statute requires that the cage size for these hens be enlarged to be about as big as the flat-bed section on a flat-bed Ford. This is estimated to raise the price of eggs by about 20%. Since California imports millions of eggs from other states each year, it didn’t want to put its own egg farmers at an economic disadvantage. So part of the statute requires that egg farmers in other states that export their eggs to California, be required to have the same enlarged cage space for their laying hens. And the other states are non-too happy about incurring the additional cost of enlarging their hen’s cages. After all, who ever said that humane treatment of humans or animals was ever part of our capitalistic society.
Thus, the Attorney-General of Missouri, with several other states likely to follow, is suing California over this legislative requirement. The case is built around Missouri’s argument that California has no constitutional authority to prescribe economic or business practices allowed in other states. From a legal point of view, Missouri does appear to have a valid constitutional case. If this wends its way up to the Supreme Court, as expected, the conservative majority on that court might very well strike down the California statute. Then we’re back to square one. Of course, from a humane point of view, the Missouri case stinks to high heaven.
A while back, I wrote a piece about “Capitalisms Casualties,” which described the grief and misfortune a capitalistic system of economics can and has wrecked on certain individuals, past and present. In that piece, I focused primarily on the harm such a system has inflicted on humans. But as we see, great damage is also experienced by defenseless animals in our midst. Is anyone willing to take up their cause? So the next time you’re putting some salt and pepper on your scrambled eggs, or devouring that tasty chicken breast for dinner, you might want to give some consideration to the poor animals that have known nothing but suffering in their short lifetimes.