I was fuming after watching a YouTube video on chicken farming. Meat chickens are genetically altered to grow twice as fast than usual. Genetic modification and hormone injection make these birds grow so rapidly, their heart and lungs are not developed well enough to sustain life. This results in birds dying prematurely. These dead birds are not removed and allowed to decay among tens of thousands of other birds in an intensely crowded and confined environment. Since watching that video, seeing chicken in supermarket shelves drives a sick feeling throughout my body. That indicated a major shift in my attitude toward this most eaten bird in the world. The aroma of chicken curry used to generate not just appetite but a whole lot of nostalgia in me.
(The Youtube video that changed my chicken eating habits)
Hailing from a middle class family in India, this particular bird visited our dining tables only twice a year. Those days were during Onam and Vishu , two Kerala festivals that we celebrated vigorously. There were no large scale chicken farms on those days. So these chickens could enjoy a life of up to four months running around, chatting each other and having sun on their back before being slaughtered. These birds were slaughtered while we waited at the butcher. The heart will be still thumping, when my mother marinate them with spices and salt. On those festive days, by noon the sweet aroma of Chicken cooked with the best mix of spices will spread around the house. We three siblings will wait eagerly like soldiers to attack the chicken curry.
Years later when I migrated to Australia, chicken became the main staple. One main reason was the easiness to cook. The frozen meat, displayed in the supermarket shelves, looked more like Egyptian mummies. Freshness was a bygone concept. I began compensating for the chicken deficiency I experienced during my childhood years, munching these birds away while carrying a secret but unsubstantiated fear that I may cause the extinction of the species. The above mentioned YouTube video put a premature full stop to my chicken eating days. “That is a disgrace”, I said to myself. Birds and animals are living creatures with the ability to suffer and feel pain. They have a right to freedom of movement. Even though they are meat chickens, they should be given enough room to move around. In chicken farms they are living in cages in near total darkness. I carried a view that these farm owners should be kept in such conditions for at least a weak, so that they will get a grasp of the pain they are inflicting on these birds.
I considered it as my duty to educate my colleagues and friends. I started giving lectures to my friends about animal rights and our duty towards these mute creatures. If we stop buying caged birds, they will stop farming caged birds and that was my action plan. “It is important that, we buy only free range chicken, hormone free and processed chemically free.” that was my advice to all those who showed patience to listen to me. I talked the talk; it was time for me to walk the walk. I started looking for a shop that sells only free range organic chicken. Soon I found one in the suburb of Preston, a shop run by an Iraqi couple. On one Saturday afternoon, I went to the shop with my head held high, with a mission, as a first step to end cruelty against our fellow inhabitants of this earth. But, there I faced a major dilemma. If you breed chicken in natural environment, giving them enough space to run around and enjoy sunlight, that will hit your bottom-line. I missed that point completely. The costs will be more and as a consumer, I am the one to bear it. The meat was dearer by almost 2.5 times. It was easier for me to swallow my words, rather than spend my hard earned money. I was back at the super market shelves, but made sure that no one I knew noticed me.
But soon I realised that, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I was displaying a much common human behaviour. These self-proclaimed kings of ideology are everywhere in the society. The refugee advocates, people who raise their voice against pollution and nuclear reactors, were just a few of them. Those behind the green movement, proclaimed humanitarians and even the anti-child smacking advocates come under this category.
Australia has a strong pro – refugee group. These people stand for welcoming refugees from anywhere in the world to Australia. They personally don’t have to bear any cost for welcoming refugees to Australia. Will they be providing at least a week’s accommodation for one refugee family? Never. It is always easy to be a humanitarian, when someone else bears the cost. Same goes with the proponents of green energy movement. Carbon tax is the first step towards making businesses accountable for the damage they cause to the environment. But these green guys and gals hate carbon tax because it will hit their hip pocket.
Nuclear reactors? Never. They are a threat even to the survival of human race. But unfortunately electricity from renewable sources will cost more and there will be supply restrictions when drought hits. If that is the case, it is okay to have a few Nuclear reactors. Of course it is okay as long as it is not in my backyard.
Now days when I buy hormone packed, caged chicken from supermarket shelves, I am not ashamed. Because now I know, you guys are no better either.