The highest-grossing stop motion animated film ever is a movie that features chickens. In 2000 the movie Chicken Run was playing in theaters and attracted families and people of all ages. Although the movie is a comedy and animated, the story line contains many parallels to real life factory farming of chickens. The film displays a chicken farm where the chickens are caged in a prison type setting and are forced to produce enough eggs or be slaughtered. Once it is found that the eggs are making minuscule profits for the owners of the farm they turn to robotic type farming. The chickens gang together to escape and once they do they happily embrace their freedom and raise their own chicks. Despite the fact that the film is animated and does not show all the grotesque and disturbing living conditions that real chickens face, the idea that chickens fear death and are being pushed to their limit is explicitly expressed. If a successful film can portray that chickens want freedom and deserve life, why is inhumane factory farming still one of the largest markets in the food industry?
|Factory Farmed Chickens (Wikimedia).|
Taylor Elinski, a SCU student, along with many other meat-eating SCU students believes that the animals that she eats are necessary for her survival as well as beneficial in improving the aesthetic and taste of her meals. Once finding out several facts about why eating animals is ethically wrong and unfair to the animals Elinski was somewhat saddened in the way her food was being raised, but admitted that she would not change her eating habits because of what she is accustomed to. Dissociation of meat and how it is raised is simple because people want to live in comfort and the customs in which they were raised.
Santa Clara University students continue in their eating habits because they believe that the cruel deaths of factory farmed animals is inevitable. Sylvia, an animal rights activist who has a sanctuary for animals rescued from factory farms said, “The death of millions leaves us numbed. The rescue of one is something we can more easily understand, spreading awareness about those that die so needlessly. It awakens us to knowledge that all of those we send to slaughter are individuals…who also wanted to live, to be someone, not something” (Pippus). While many meat-eaters justify their diets by disassociating their meals and the cruelty that takes place to create them, the reality is that most students at SCU are unaware that factory farmed animals are treated inhumanely and those who are aware are unwilling to address the inhumane way that animals are raised because they believe that the animal is meant to be eaten and the death of the animal is inevitable.
Factory-farmed chickens are treated in very inhumane ways that affect the chickens and even the workers involved physically and psychologically. The fact is most students at SCU are completely oblivious of the fact that almost all of the chicken they eat on a frequent basis is produced in an inhumane way. With 99% of the animals we eat coming from factory farms, consuming one of these tortured animals is almost inevitable as a meat-eater. Despite this apparent large scale and frequency of factory farm production, many are unaware of the facts or just simply don’t care. Since all farmed animals are consumed at the expense of their deaths and therefore the treatment during their life may seem insignificant, nothing can be further from the truth. Due to the inhumane and unsanitary conditions that animals are exposed to in the factory farms, the consequences are dire. In a study conducted by the CDC, reported that 48 million foodborne illnesses and 3000 deaths occur annually (Baldwin 2015, 179). This statistic is alarming as we entrust the companies to ensure that the food we consume is safe. However, there are studies indicating that it can lead to an extensive amount of cases of illness and in extreme cases, death. Furthermore, it is safe to say that factory farmed chickens are large contributors to that alarming statistic as the most land animal for food with “9 billion chickens killed for their flesh each year, and 305 million hens are used for their eggs” (“Chickens Used for Food”).
As social creatures that like to lay in the sun, take dust baths, and spend time with other chickens, the factory farm system completely deprives chickens of these fundamental freedoms that they are supposed to experience. Chickens killed for their meat or broiler chickens are raised in large sheds containing thousands of other chickens all crammed together in individual spaces as big as a sheet of paper (“Animals on Factory Farms”). As a result of the high stress and restlessness caused by this overcrowded living arrangement, the chickens become very aggressive which is then dealt with by cutting off their beaks and toes without using anesthetics (“Animals on Factory Farms”). Raised for their meat, broiler chickens are bred to grow in extreme disproportion as their breasts and thighs are enlarged by antibiotics and constant feeding. The chickens are almost mind controlled to constantly keep eating, as the lights are turned on at all times to force the chickens to stay awake and to keep eating (“Animals on Factory Farms”). Due to this disproportion, broiler chickens are essentially crippled by their own weight as their skeletal structure and organs are unable to adequately support the substantial weight (“Factory Farming”). It is no surprise then that these chickens are extremely susceptible and plagued by various diseases and conditions such as heart attacks and failures, dehydration, bacterial infections, and osteoporosis (“Factory Farming”). Ultimately, broiler chickens are treated as just means of production and not living creatures. Although chickens have a lifespan about 10 weeks, these broiler chickens are usually killed six weeks into their meager lives (“Factory Farming”). This further legitimizes their function as only capital for the means of production and not a life form. By using unnatural methods to increase the amount of meat, profit is maximized at the expense of excruciating pain for the chickens. In a capitalistic society, this emphasis on profit is why this factory system was ever allowed to develop into fruition in the first place. SCU students, living in a campus nestled in the business center of Silicon Valley, reflects this prioritization of profits over the treatment of animals. This is ultimately evidenced by the consumption of meat.
Laying chickens are chickens that are solely bred for the purpose of producing eggs. Since only female chickens are capable of laying eggs, male chickens are slaughtered shortly after birth (“Animals on Factory Farms”). Similar to the broiler chickens, laying chickens are also confined to extremely tight spaces with 5-8 chickens placed into wire cages only 14 square inches big. Furthermore, the laying chickens’ beaks are also cut off due to aggressive behavior caused by the small space. In an environment where “approximately one in five die of stress and disease,” respiratory diseases, Fatty Liver Syndrome, and paralysis is extremely common (“Factory Farming”). Another unnatural method used on these poor creatures is forced molting. This is essentially done to “squeeze out” every last egg out of each chicken. Due to old age, laying chickens begin to slowly start producing less eggs. To combat this, nutrition is withheld from the chicken in order to induce the body into a final laying cycle (“Animals on Factory Farms”). After, the laying chicken essentially dies of fatigue, the meat is used for cat and dog food (“Chickens Used for Food”). My question to the reader is simple, is this the kind of meat you want your beloved doggy and kitty to be eating?
Although all these facts serve as excellent and legitimate reasons to stop eating meat, I believe nothing is more legitimate than true accounts of animal cruelty. Recently, activist group Mercy For Animals exposed a chicken farm located in North Carolina contracted by Perdue Farms. A video was secretly filmed by a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator that shows workers punting chickens across sheds as though they were footballs. Some of the workers even spun the chicken’s head, breaking their necks. The workers featured in the video were arrested and are being charged. The investigator that went undercover as an employee, caught one of their workers saying that the chickens bred by Perdue Farm grow so fast that they often die from heart attacks or get crushed by their own weight. The video reveals numerous numbers of dead chickens rotting among the living birds. Upon seeing the video, Perdue continues to claim no responsibility towards the acts committed by their workers. However, they are considering some of the demands made by Mercy For Animals in regards to treating and raising the chicken better (Foster 2016). Despite this small victory for animal activists, this was by no means an outright victory. There are new laws that make such a video illegal as it is a “violation of privacy” on a private corporation. Animal rights groups believe that this is another ploy from the meat industry to prevent the truth from coming out (Foster 2016).
Many students at SCU are able to easily dissociate their meals with where the food is coming from which results in ignorance and increased cruelty towards the animals. We were curious about how many of these students truly knew about where their food was coming from. Some students that we interviewed identified as carnivores, while others varied from pescetarians (a vegetarian that also eats fish) to vegans. The questions we asked during the interview followed a certain pattern. We began by asking the interviewee about their diet. If the student identified as a meat eater, then we went on to ask about their motivations behind eating meat. On top of this we continued to ask the students if they knew the origins of the animals that were being slaughtered for the students’ meals. We then asked the subject to draw what they believed a chicken that they would consume would look like before its death. After seeing the results of the chickens that they had drawn we showed the students pictures of healthy chickens versus the chickens raised in factory farms. We also read them some of many disturbing facts about factory farmed chicken raising in the United States and documented their responses.
Alexandra Carter is also a meat-eater on SCU’s college campus. When she began the interview she blatantly admitted that she enjoys the taste of meat, does not need it to survive, and honestly has no clue where her meat is coming from. She drew a chubby, cute chicken which she confirmed was in accordance with the healthy chicken images that we provided. She even used the word happy to describe the animal. When I showed her the images of the factory farm and the battery cages, Alexandra laughed in dismay. She was shocked by the inhumane treatment of the animals. As I began to read her the facts about how chickens ended up on her plate, I could visibly see the discomfort in her eyes. At a certain point she could not even look at me and started to play with her hands. The guilt was evident. (Amrita Ram)Let’s come back to Taylor, the girl who identified as a meat eater but believed that she could not change. Taylor claimed she knew where her food came from although not to the standard that she should. However, when Taylor drew her photo of a chicken it came out happy, smiling, and overall beautiful. When Taylor was shown the images of the healthy, naturally raised chicken she confirmed that the healthy chicken is what she was aiming for through her drawing. When shown photos of where factory-farmed chickens are actually raised and what conditions they are actually in, she was astounded by the number of chickens that were in such close proximity of one another. Taylor’s bright smile slowly faded away after hearing the facts about chickens, including things like how chickens are the most abused animal and the devastating conditions that they are forced to live through.
In a conversation later had with both ladies, I was compelled to ask them more about what they knew about their food and diets. Both Taylor and Alexandra admitted that they were uncomfortable with the subject. Neither of the girls had eaten any meat for dinner on the day that the interview was conducted. Still, despite having felt uncomfortable, neither of the girls had gone on to do more research about factory-farming and the consequences that come with it. The information about the terrible conditions of factory-farming needs to be made more readily available for a larger population in order to even consider making an impact. This is difficult due to the fact that factory-farming in the leader of the food industry, which means that it holds a significant amount of money and power over the entire nation. Most efforts that are led to inform the public are met with plea bargains, lawsuits, or hush money to cover the entire ordeal up with. On top of this, employees are afraid to come forward because large corporations have the evil ability to destroy these individuals.
Due to the horrific conditions inside the factory farms, it is to no surprise that employees have not been adamant in preventing the truth from coming out. Despite annual numbers of 500,000 people employed for factory farm positions, it has an astronomical 95-100% annual turnover rate (Patton 2016). Not only does this statistic show a trend of extremely high job dissatisfaction, it also makes it safe to say that working conditions inside factory farms are literally unbearable. To prevent unionization and mobilization for better working conditions, a study conducted by the National Agricultural Workers Survey in 2007-2009 showed that almost half of the workers did not have legal work permits in the United States, 38% did not speak English, and only 33% were US citizens (Patton 2016). Like the animals inside these factory farms, workers are also severely affected by health hazards and disease. From inhaling dangerous chemicals on a daily basis to injury from operating dangerous machinery, workers in a sense are just as tortured as the animals they inflict pain on. The CDC stated in 2012 that “every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment” (Patton 2016). Just like how the factory farm system is not a sustainable farming practice, these working conditions are also not sustainable.
In another undercover investigation, Cody Carlson investigated the experience in factory farms. As an employee for Mercy For Animals, he exchanged his comfortable life in New York City to accept a job as an employee on a factory farm to experience the cruelties firsthand. During the experience, Carlson observed numerous instances of employees taking their anger out on the animals for no apparent reason. Carlson, disgusted by the pattern present throughout the numerous farms wrote, “These guys were troubled, and didn’t make much effort to hide it from their coworkers. The scarier part was that nobody tried to stop them, or did anything more then tease them for their sadistic behavior. This was strange since many of the workers claimed that they cared about the animals, and admitted that they had to “get used” to working in the barns” (Carlson 2012). It is not as if factory farms are only hiring workers that despise animals. These factories draw people that are desperate for work and willing to commit the cruelties that allows the whole system to work. Although drastic, these workers are choosing their need of money over the future condition and sustainability of our health and environment. However, this is just like the SCU students that choose their preference of eating meat over our future health and environment. The ultimate blame however goes to the corporations that control the industry and manipulates the workers and consumers such as SCU students. Essentially, we are mere cogs in the machine that allow the whole system to work each and everyday.
For every two steps forward, another one step backward. This has essentially been the story of the fight against these large meat industries which has successfully kept the truth out of the American public’s conscious. This includes students at SCU, as those who don’t know have continued to eat meat guilt-free. While those who are aware, have turned a blind eye by not accepting or acknowledging the extent of the cruelty by continuing to eat meat. (Gen Kimura)By now, it should be pretty easy to scrutinize the atrocious environment that produces the bulk of the meat consumed in the United States. In an industry with such little regulation despite the employment of many people, it is safe to conclude that both workers and animals are tortured. I believe that if all students at SCU worked at a factory farm for at least a day, many would give up their preference for eating meat. Then, students can truly experience first hand the cruelties committed everyday and forcefully break the disassociation students have with their meals.
Most SCU students value their lives above those of chickens and end up viewing the death of factory-farmed animals as inevitable. The simple fact is that most people don’t care about what happens to animals that are factory farmed. Facts about abuse are abundant from PETA and other anti-factory farms sites but people simply will not look past their desires, ego, and tastebuds. Many people love a nicely heated rotisserie but don’t even consider looking into the dark secrets behind this production of this chicken. Not only is meat created through a terrible production cycle, it is also extremely unhealthy for consumers and is extremely detrimental on the planet. When people choose to overlook these horrible effects, they are hurting themselves and everyone around them due to their laziness and inability to overcome basic human desires. Along with desire, the ego and hubris of many people lead them to believe that they are superior to these beautiful creatures, when in reality chickens are not very far away from us on the intelligence spectrum. The habit of having a bad mindset and a negative notion about chickens will not change their ways but will ultimately make the problems of poultry farms worse and harder to solve. Due to this ridiculous thought process, many people seem to not care what happens to chickens.
As a second part of the interview, we asked students direct questions about their eating habits and we received a variety of answers. We hoped to understand the emotional aspect of how a student makes the decision to bypass their ethical views and eat meat. In the previous portion of the interview, we read the students a series of grotesque facts associated with factory-farming, similar to those re-counted in the earlier parts of this report. After this we asked the students if they would consider changing their lifestyle if they knew it would make a difference in the lives of these animals. Finally, we asked if the students believed that it was the purpose of a chicken’s life to feed the student. For those who did not identify as carnivores, we asked a different set of questions. We began by asking how long they had practiced their dietary habits and what influenced them to live with this lifestyle. Then we asked if they felt any differences since changing their diet both emotionally towards the animals and physically in their own bodies. Finally we asked them how they were limited from the food available to them on a college campus as well as whether or not they believed it was possible for a normal person.
After finishing the facts, we fully expected Taylor to say that she would 100 percent be willing to change her diet for those poor, deprived animals. However, we were shocked to hear her say that she probably would not. She was captivated by the appeal chicken and the quality of life that it provided for her was too great for her to deny. Although she felt bad, she did not feel compelled enough to alter her life so dramatically. I fear that our pictures and words may not have impacted Taylor as much as we hoped they would. Words and images are easy to brush off. They are easy to hear and see but not truly comprehend. Taylor is a prime example of what it means to dissociate. People are so willing to put aside uncomfortable subjects for their own benefit. However, in a conversation that I later had with Taylor she expressed that she was not entirely unopposed to the idea of changing her lifestyle. She just felt that her personal decision would not affect the world in a significant way. This mindset is rooted behind the belief that one person is not big enough to make a change. Generation Z has been taught that as long as we can conveniently forget certain horrific facts, then the world will eventually sort itself out and/or the adults will take care of the issue. This result is a certain unwillingness to behave humanely, because society says that it is okay for a person to act as though their actions do not make an impact.
In the case of Alexandra, another meat-eater who was visibly uncomfortable after hearing about the terrible chicken conditions, I was positive that we had made a difference and impacted the way Alexandra was going to live her life from here on out. However, yet again I was dismayed. Alexandra also said that she could not see herself abstaining from chicken. However, unlike Taylor, Alexandra did believe that she could change. She said that if the information were readily available for her, say on the packaging of chicken at the grocery store, she would be willing to convert and eat chickens from farms that treat them humanely. Alexandra ended the interview by responding that it is not a chicken’s purpose in life to feed humans. However, because of the way that society has groomed us, she believes that we are merely victims of society’s evil plot to control the way we feel. This mindset is much easier for an advocate to work with. For a person, like Alexandra, who can still see hope in the future of the food-industry in America, we can see there is a way to make chicken farming more humane. While scarce, there are chicken farms that take care of their animals and treat them with respect and dignity. They provide a quality of life for these animals that are unheard of in the factory-farming industry. With heavier federal regulation and third-party check ups, there is a possibility of once again cultivating healthy chickens.
There are SCU students that believe and act in accordance with this “better future”. Gabby Quintana is a first-year, a business major, and more relevantly a vegan. Gabby decided to change her lifestyle in order to affect the world around her. She believes that by abstaining from all animal products, she can significantly decrease her carbon footprint and leave a little less of a mess for the world to have to clean up behind her. She truly believes that being a vegan has allowed to her to be healthier both in mind and body. She feels better about her day to day life and, although it was an adjustment, doesn’t feel as though it is a chore to maintain anymore. She admits that sometime she gets discouraged but it is possible to maintain a healthy, vegan lifestyle on a college campus. Gabby is a perfect example of living a positive, well-rounded life on a restricted diet. She knows what happens to food and where her food comes from. She connected that her actions made an impact on her surrounding environment and made the appropriate changes in her lifestyle to reduce the negative effects.
It has been proven by scientists and behavioral analysts who study chickens, that they are in fact extremely smart and social creatures. This then begs the question, why do people think they are better than chickens? Why do we allow the brutalization of these smart creatures to continue? According to PETA, Chickens are extremely inquisitive, intelligent animals with scientific results showing that their intelligence levels are equal to and in many cases surpass those of dogs and even some primates (peta.org). Silly punch line jokes such as “What do you get when the chicken crosses the road” belittles the smart creatures and allows us to believe they are mindless pieces of meat. When in fact, many animals we deem intelligent will surely “cross the road” far before any chicken will. According to: “Dr. Chris Evans of Australia’s Macquarie University, “are good at solving problems.” He explains that chickens are able to understand that recently hidden objects still exist, a concept that small children are unable to master. Discussing chickens’ capabilities, he says, “As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys” (peta.org). To start off with, Chickens have the mental capacity that is better than children. This should indicate that chickens should be seen as equals to us because they are able to problem solve better than an average young child. Along with this fact, many animal experts compare intelligence attributes of a chicken with those of problem solving primates such as monkeys. Since our DNA is almost exactly equivalent to those of monkeys, the human race should reconsider their stance on the animal kingdom hierarchy. People need to reevaluate their views of chickens. It is ignorant to infer that we are superior to chickens because they are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.
Even though people may have respect and concern for chickens, they will constantly use the excuse of inevitability to explain why they continue to eat chicken and condone the actions of factory farms. It is interesting to listen to people say that chickens are going to die anyway to why help. Well, we will all die some day to and that is inevitable. What gives us the authority to dictate how another species spends their lives up until the inevitable of their deaths. It is quite alarming how people are so egoistical and arrogant in believing that their taste buds are more important than the lives of these intelligent birds. Also despite understanding the extremely negative effects of the production and consumption of chicken meat, people still continue to eat it. According to the primary research done by others in the group, the results of some students show that they believe the purpose of chickens is to feed the human population. People really do not give much thought into how amazing these creatures are. Part of the problem is that people really don’t understand chickens or have a skewed notion of what they actually are. When Josh Caragher, a chicken owner, was asked about how we can change the thought process of inevitability, he said, “Own chickens!” Chickens are easier to keep as pets than dogs and they don’t make any noise. As a bonus, the owners of chickens will be able get eggs. The solution to stop the thought process of inevitability is to own chickens and allow people to witness what amazing creatures they are. People need to respect animals and put their desires behind them. The inevitability argument is no longer going to fly. All animals need to be seen as equal that includes chickens, and every factory farmed animal for that matter.
This issue is not only present in chickens because it also affects many other animals and the overall environment we live in. Some of the other animals that are raised in inhumane conditions and that are treated poorly include turkeys, horses, cows, pigs, and a wide variety of fish species. In these slaughterhouses, pigs, who follow closely behind chickens whom are the most abused animals to date, are hung upside down with their back legs tied to the ceiling and slaughtered. In addition to being hung upside down, their ears and tails are often cut off without anesthesia. This is just one of the many examples of how millions and millions of livestock are seen and treated as objects because we think that our lives matter more than the lives of other animals. Meat consumers fail to look past the bodies of these animals, and fail to realize that they are more than just a source of protein, but actually a life that should be valued like yours and mine. In addition to inhumane abuse not only happening to chickens but to millions of other animals, the environment is heavily affected during the meat production process. The meat industry is one of the leading causes of pollution. Of all agricultural land in the U.S., 87 percent is used to raise animals for food. That’s 45 percent of the total land mass in the U.S. About 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared to create cropland to produce feed for animals raised for food. The meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the U.S. The meat industry is causing damage to numerous aspects of the world, both physical and psychological, and without consumers doing their part to put an end to this issue, it will continue to rise.
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