Humanimal – Obscured By Clouds

Daily life of the vegetarian #12

THERE’S NOTHING THAT gets my blood boiling – yes, vegetarians do have blood in them – more than meat industry representatives pouncing on any opposition to their murderous operations.
Their modus operandi is a kind of steamrollering of oppositional points of view. If anyone criticises any aspect of the meat industry in print, they scour the article for any mistakes, and then make a song and dance about it when they find something. This way, they have apologetic editors in the palms of their hands, because editors hate making mistakes, and strive to get it right, all of the time, and feel responsible when one of their writers gets it wrong. And in this way, the meat industry representatives get a brief window through which to espouse meaningless statistics about their super-fine, upstanding, traditional (but murderous) industry, so as to placate the readership.
In the latest Metro (Auckland’s brilliant cultural and current affairs magazine), Michael Brooks, executive director of the Poultry Industry Association, wrote in to take food writer Jesse Mulligan to task for having dared to criticise a restaurant for serving up caged chickens in the previous issue.
Now, ignore for a moment the rather comic image of a bird being served up in a cage. Mulligan’s mistake was to assume that broilers – chickens born and bread specifically for meat – were ever caged. As Brooks, and another meat industry apologist, point out, broiler chooks are raised in barns.
This sounds rather cheery, until you check the reality. That reality is that barn-raised broilers have a life that’s even worse (if that’s imaginable) than a caged egg-maker. First of all, the broiler chooks are pumped out by super-breeders who are repeatedly raped by incredibly vicious roosters. The spawn are dumped into a ‘barn’ (and one has to use this word pejoratively) where they’re packed in so tightly they can hardly move, and where the rate of attrition through disease and cannibalism is very high. It doesn’t really matter to the poultry industry if these birds get sick, because they’re going to die in 35 days anyway.
But that’s not all. These birds are engineered to be grotesquely meat-laden; so much so that their bodies are misshapen. Even if they did have enough space to walk around and enjoy what little life stretches out before them, they couldn’t really do it, because their feet and legs are deformed.
This is the incredibly tragic story of the broiler, and New Zealanders eat more than 100 million – 100 million! – of them each year. And this unjustifiable torture and murder on a grand scale is okay, according to Brooks, because they’re not caged. “Barn-raised production systems are used [for] 94 percent of the chicken produced for the table in New Zealand”, he writes, presumably beaming with pride, as if it was really all right.
So my advice is: whenever you see someone with a vested interest writing in to a magazine to pick the scabs off arguments based on a mistake made by a writer, do a bit of thinking about the issue.
As former Monkee Mike Nesmith sang in one of his less celebrated songs: “Hidden behind all the logic one finds without truth.” Brooks’ argument might appear to have the facts on his side, but take a look for yourself in that no-cage barn and you’ll see something you may not like. Interestingly, the poultry industry does everything it can from stopping people taking that peak. I wonder why. GARY STEEL

PS, And go buy the new Metro, it’s a damn fine read!

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