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OPINION Bill Walton: Men Who Throw Chickens

My second reaction was to swear off eating chicken if that was how we treated the wee critters before we ate them.
20170617 chicken walton

A week has slipped by and I still cannot get the images of those young men abusing chickens in British Columbia out of my mind. The story aired on CBC news and I’m sure the video is still out there if you need a refresher on how badly we humans can and do behave.

The first reaction was to rethink the death penalty but once I calmed down I thought the least we could do was stick those fellows in a public rack to shame them by tossing rotten fruit at them. However, in this day and age even that would be too much for some sympathetic to the men who were likely doing work they did not like for wages that were minimum at best. How can you shame someone with the mentality to throw defenceless chickens, kick them, and subject the creature to other harmful and hurting acts?

My second reaction was to swear off eating chicken if that was how we treated the wee critters before we ate them. This thought was immediately followed by thinking about how our other meats from cows, pigs, goats, and sheep were at least as inhumanly obtained as in the chicken factories.

How have we arrived at such a state of affairs? Have our sensibilities been so deadened that we no longer feel anything about our fellow inhabitants on this spinning planet? Of course we too often treat our fellow human beings just as badly as those men did the chickens. Heck, some of us even treat family poorly.  Maybe that is what happened to these chicken men: they had terrible childhoods. Or perhaps they have become immune to better feelings by watching TV, videos, and movies. Or parents fighting, arguing or setting examples of how not to fit into society.

Truth to be known, we humans have always acted rather poorly when it comes to our humanity towards other creatures. We somehow acquired this idea in our heads that we had dominion over all the beasts, fish and fowl on the world, and how we treated these other creatures was of little consequence. As terribly flawed as that advice was, we have not performed much better in our relationships with others. Oh, we make laws and bylaws to govern our conduct; some rely on religious instruction for their behaviour; while others think they know better than everyone else does and have their own rules of engagement. It’s a fine mess we have gotten ourselves into.

My third reaction was to consider becoming a vegan. Maybe eat a few chicken eggs – then I remembered seeing how the laying hens were treated in the egg factories. Sheesh.  Maybe I could exist on veggies and a few shrimp or the odd fillet of fish. This was fine until I thought about fish farms, pollution, and declining fish stocks around the world. Potatoes, carrots, a nice squash, some berries and nuts, the occasional parsnip and asparagus. And lots of lettuce. I almost had myself convinced until I thought about the conditions of growing and harvesting the veggies.

I was not thinking about how a carrot must feel when it is torn from the ground, its root hairs severed in some quick, slightly painful, extraction from mother earth. No, I was thinking about the people who were doing the work: likely poorly paid immigrants; working in conditions that most of us would abhor; no hope of benefits or pension when they reached the time when their backs would no longer bend. No, being a vegan did not carry any more social justice than continuing on eating as I do.

The fact of the matter is (I detest that term but it fits here) we are simply too many. We have out-paced our planet and now, living in urban settings, need our sustenance in great quantities, brought to us as quickly and cheaply as possible. How we treat the animals or humans feeding us is of little consequence. Unless we stop to think about it or see a video of men throwing chickens.

Gone are the days when we grew our own foods – vegetable and animal. We tended our gardens and cared for our flocks with some respect for we depended on them for our very lives. I grew up on a farm and we treated our animals well – even though at the end of the day (another of those terms!) we ate the chickens, pigs, and cows. Hell, we even gave them names!

It is unfortunate that we can no longer have a few chickens in our backyards (see North Bay bylaw 151-93) .Or perhaps a community chicken farm where people who live in those towering condominiums and apartments or cheek to jowl houses could escape to once in a while to reconnect with nature and see where their eggs and chicken wings come from. Perhaps if those men who threw chickens had held a little fluffy, peeping fuzz ball in their hands as a child they might have grown into different men.

Shucks, now I’m getting too sentimental. If there is a chicken God, I hope He or She visits those men who threw chickens and pecks the hell out of them. Probably not going to happen, for even chickens likely have a better human nature than that.