Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian. I’m not even close. But I have been making a special effort for the last couple of years not to eat chicken. I haven’t been successful, but I can at least say that I’ve dropped my chicken consumption by about 80%. I would LIKE to be a vegetarian, but I have the same problem with it that I have with quitting smoking: No discipline. Oh yeah, there’s that addiction thing, too.
If you don’t believe me, try giving up chicken. If you pay attention, a huge majority of fast-food places serve chicken exclusively. “Hamburger” fast-food places always serve chicken too. Check out the freezer section for ready-made dinners–mostly chicken. Higher-end restaurants always have chicken as an option. Those in between (see:Applebee’s) feature wings and “boneless” wings. Ditto even pizza places. You can’t escape chicken, and it’s been touted as a healthy alternative to red meat, which in our world primarily means beef.
It would be good to start giving up meat by giving up baby animals like lamb and veal and piglets, followed by giving up adult animals that are kept in atrocious conditions. Which pretty much includes all adult animals grown for food unless they’re raised on small farms.
So when I decided to focus on reducing meat intake, I decided to focus on chickens, and my reason was that chickens are more abused than any other food animal. That isn’t necessarily true. The giant pens that hold beef cattle can be seen from space. But I think it’s something about chickens. They’re birds, and I have a soft spot in my heart for birds. Baby chicks. Is there anything cuter? And hens are good mothers. They coo at their chicks and herd them around to protect them from danger. And maybe my choice is influenced by my knowlege of a chicken house in Mississippi during my young college days, where the farmer went bankrupt and thousands of chickens suffocated in their quarters because they turned off his electricity.
Today’s New York Times Magazine has an article about Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States. He’s a Vegan. If I’m ever successful at not eating chickens, and then proceeding to other animals, I’ll never be a Vegan. Vegans hold that even eating the products of animals is exploitation of them. So…no eggs. No milk. No cheese. No honey. What? The exploitation of bees? Like bees haven’t been making honey since they evolved from, oh, pterodactyls? I can’t get my brain to reject the idea of “mining” animals for their products. Nor do I think it’s bad to eat them once their mining days are over.
But Pacelle is a smart guy. He has turned the Humane Society into an organization which calls for the humane treatment of food animals in addition to companion animals. After all, one culture’s pet is another’s food source. I think Pacelle is the kind of person who will transform our view of how we treat animals. For the full article, along with a great picture of Pacelle surrounded by chickens, go here: