Monday, April 13, 2009

chicks and chicken

I've spent a lot of time over the last few days watching our chicks. They are something new and I'm curious to learn about what they are like. I've never raised chickens before. Sure, I've taken care of friends' chickens from time to time, but they've always been adult birds. Our chickens are baby chicks, they are so small and fragile. There is something inside me that feels driven to protect them from harm.

It's interesting to see the chicks developed. Because they were born in a factory, they have no mother to teach them how to be chickens. A week out of the egg, they have only just begun to learn how to clean themselves. Some have figured out how to sleep like a bird instead of flopping down on the floor with their head at an odd angle. There are all sorts of things they don't know yet that I would have thought were instinctual for chickens. It just goes to show you one of the problems of industrial agriculture: the animals (and plants) don't know how to be themselves or are produced in an environment where they aren't allowed to be what they are.

While watching the chickens I've been thinking about my eating habits. I eat meat, not a lot, but some most days. I'm not going to be vegetarian any time soon and vegan, for me, is a long way off. I think that these are both very good ways of being, but it's not for me just now.

Even though I eat meat, I'm still deeply concerned with the conditions in which the animal is raised. This has two reasons: one, I don't like it when animals are mistreated and forced to live in conditions that do not meet their needs; and two, the quality of the meat is improved if the animals do not experience undue stress. Not only the taste improves, but also the nutritional value that we acquire from eating it. That way, if you grow an animal in a way that is closer to it's, well for lack of a better word, essence, then they may not grow so fat so fast, but you need substantially less meat to get the nutrition and flavour that you seek which leads to fewer animals being killed.

I digress. These chicks living in our coup; half of them will be food. This brings up weird feelings in me. I'm conscious of where I buy my meats and the conditions that they lived and were slaughtered. But this, raising chickens for my own consumption, this is different than driving down to the local butcher and buying something for dinner. I have several weeks to get to know these birds. That's what worries me.

I'm pretty certain I can eat them, but I know I couldn't kill them. Not at this stage in my life. The fact that I faint at the sight of blood has something to do with it. If I can insure they live a life that is congruent with their chicken nature, free from stress, then I don't think I would feel as bad about it as I do when I have to eat a factory or industrially raised chicken.

I think that there is something in the fact that they are food that makes me feel obligated to respect them. I feel more responsible for them than I would, say, a pet. Like I feel more responsible for a fruit tree or a vegetable plant than I do for ornamental flowers. There is a connection there: these things will nourish me, so I need to nourish them.


Josiane said...

I'm glad you shared your thoughts about this, that was very interesting.
Having been used to raising ourselves the animals we ate is one of the reason why I became a vegetarian: when I left my parents' home, I was unable to buy meat that had been raised the way it is in industrial farms.

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趙又廷Mark said...
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