We live in a rural area where the major industry is chickens and the associated crops to feed said chickens. The “crop” part is just great with rolling fields of winter wheat, soybeans, and corn. Sometimes the corn grows so high it is hard to see around corners for oncoming traffic, but it is beautiful to see amber waves of grain and corn as high as an elephant’s ear! Pastoral, I think they would call it. Serene, peaceful, quiet. Almost!
In the spring when they till and plant the land they put something in the ground to help the plants grow. Most people would call it fertilizer. Most people know it smells. Since we are in chicken country they are really good at recycling and guess what they put on the fields? Yup! Chicken manure. When spread it produces a great cloud of what I call “Chicken S—t Dust!” I hear tell that farmers in these parts call it the smell of money. The chickens probably call it the smell of death! And, rightly so.
The way we grow chickens in these parts, I am told, is through a system whereby the major chicken producers (Perdue, Allen, Mountaire) hatch fertilized chicken eggs in, I would presume, giant incubators. They then ship the chicks out to local chicken farmers who then raise them to adult chicken-hood. These farmers then summon up what I call “The Chicken Train.” Actually, it’s a big tractor trailer truck stacked way high with chicken cages. The chickens are loaded (jam-packed actually) into the train for transport back to the chicken producers.
Often while we are driving around our lovely rural area we find ourselves behind one of these chicken trains. For some reason it is disturbing to me, but I’ve never been able to articulate it. Recently, R said as we were behind a train, “I am always reminded of the Holocaust when I see one of these chicken trains. I think of the Jews being herded into trains and shipped off to be gassed and killed in the ovens. It bothers me.”
And, then it dawned on me that R had just voiced my feelings exactly. I knew those chickens were going to be killed. Stripped of their feathered clothing, and sent off to be roasted, broiled, boiled, fried, and grilled for our consumption. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chicken and eat it on a regular basis. I also love fish, beef, lamb, and pork. But, I don’t have to see any of them crammed into cages being led to slaughter. Seeing is a lot more visceral than simply picking up the package in the local supermarket.
Of course, there is nothing to be done for these poor chickens so long as we like chicken and want to eat it (or any other animal for that matter). How then do I comfort myself and rationalize that killing them is okay. “They have small brains. Very small brains.” I say. “They probably have no concept of where they are going or what is going to happen to them.” Somehow that doesn’t make me feel better. I think a man named Hitler once said the same thing about the Jews. Maybe I’ll become a vegetarian. But sadly, probably not, because I am just ever so human and I really do like chicken. Maybe I just won’t eat so much chicken because I still feel the same way every time I see “The Chicken Train.”