I'll be the first to admit we shouldn't mistreat chickens before we kill and eat them. There is a difference between taking our normal place here in the food chain and pointlessly abusing chickens the way cats do with the birds they eat.
Those chicken ranchers who rear chickens in tiny little cages without giving them so much as a walk in the yard now and then are strange people indeed. Even a maximum security psycho in the state pen gets to stretch his legs in the yard.
But that does not make maximum-security psychos or chickens nice people. And the member of the Animal Liberation Front who proudly raided a Washington chicken farm the other night, freeing the chickens and assuring us that he had placed them in "loving homes," doesn't know a chicken from a turnip.
I know chickens, both as critters and as dinner. I spent my childhood among chickens. There isn't a more vile creature on a farm. They are dirty, cannibalistic, brainless (and surprisingly delicious) animals.
The notion of a chicken in a "loving home" is as strange as a rabid badger in a loving home. I'd rather live with a trial lawyer. Certain beasts just aren't all that social.
The person who freed chickens to loving homes hasn't met any chickens if he sees them as cuddly creatures. You bring a chicken into your loving home and it will peck your loving eyes out while you sleep.
It's also tough to tolerate in a loving home a creature that attacks its own kind. An injured chicken in the barnyard is dead meat. Fellow chickens will peck it to death.(But that probably doubles the chicken flavor in a chicken because we are what we eat.)
Most farm animals are a pleasure to live with -- cows, horses, dogs, farmers' daughters. But traditionally, chickens were tolerated only because they were a source of eggs and of fresh meat in a time before home freezers.
The chicken liberator the other night revealed his ignorance of chickens and of homes by saying he had given chickens to loving homes. In truth, a family that considers chickens a heart-warming pet is closer to an insane asylum than to a loving home.
But that's OK. There are a lot of things I don't know. And the person who plucked the chickens from the chicken coops did so, in part, for well-intended reasons. I say "in part" because the love of chickens is rarely the sole motivation in such cases. Becoming a hero to chicken defenders everywhere is most of the motive with the kind of showboats who go on midnight chicken-liberating raids and then issue boastful press releases, as this one did.
I have two gripes with them:
Night raiders suspend democracy by declaring themselves superior to community opinion and overruling by force what the community decides -- that chicken ranching is legal. Animal liberators feel that being better than the rest of us licenses them to go out in the dark of night and do what they please with other people's chickens.
But I still want to know why the animal rights raiders spend all their time chasing chickens and never think to liberate the so-called "companion animals" of America, the cats and dogs, many of whom are held captive by humans -- including animal rights humans.
Mind you, I'm as fond of cats as anyone -- but not in the same way I am fond of chickens, not by any stretch. However, cats have a habit of becoming too much of a good thing. That is especially true when you live in a born-free neighborhood where everybody's cat belongs as much to the neighborhood as to any one individual. Our neighborhood is definitely overcatted. We are a cat-intensive neighborhood.
Other people's cats come to visit my cats all the time. I have seen as many as six cats roaming my yard simultaneously. How about a little help? Where is some night raider to sneak into the neighborhood and liberate a cat or two when you really need one?
Please take a few of the cats to some other loving home.
(They're no trouble to care for. Just feed them a liberated chicken.)
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