Tuesday, November 23, 2010
To Be A Well Treated Prisoner...
Or Not To Be At All?
Thanksgiving Day is approaching and with it the usual conflicting views about raising Turkeys (and other animals) in order to kill and eat them.
There is so much hostility and judgment around the issue of domesticated animals, eating meat, factory farms, free-range chickens, etc. I think it drives people into harder and harder camps, as much to spite the other side as to reflect their actual views.
I do understand the feelings of those who love animals too much to ever kill and eat them, and I do share those feelings.
I also consider that if these domesticated fowl hadn't been domesticated, they wouldn't exist at all. We give them some life, (and I've seen some pretty damn happy domesticated chickens and turkeys around here), and then we take that life. In between, I'm all in favor of giving them the best life our resources permit, and I'm really against factory farming.
Putting aside factory farms which are cruel and a fairly recent phenomenon, our relationship with domesticated animals is perhaps the kindest predator/prey relationship on Earth. Most animals that eat meat just kill it and eat it, some don't even wait until the prey is dead to start eating. We're the ones who raise our prey animals, care for them, protect them, nourish them, and then argue about the most humane way to kill them.
They (and I mean non-factory farmed domesticated animals) wouldn't have existed in the first place if not for "higher powers" i.e. the human race, they get a pretty interesting time and a decent shot at some of the pleasures of being what they are, and then they are no more. This seems to me not that far from our own lot in life, and perhaps all of life's creatures, many, many of whom have their "end" determined by another species, or by other factors out of their control.
Maybe we are all actually "God's Chickens"! We get to run around for a while, squawking and clucking, and then we are killed and "eaten" by Nature, reabsorbed into the soup.
In short, if life is a choice between a decent life as a prisoner, with a few ecstatic moments now and then, and no life at all, I'll take the decent prisoner's life. And, while it's not ideal, for us or for the chickens, I think it beats not existing at all.
One Turkey farmer put it: "Our turkeys only have one bad day and we try to make that one pretty good."
So with my heart and feelings about animals in my left hand and the above thoughts in my right hand, I find myself leaning right these days, but not that far.
And if you do eat turkey this Thanksgiving, I heartily recommend a free-range and/or organically grown bird. Not only is it a more humane way to treat these animals, but they taste much better and they're better for you.