Image: Still from YouTube, Mercy for Animals
A couple days ago, we published a piece on the secret spy video of chicks being ground up alive captured by an undercover investigator from the organization Mercy for Animals. If you missed the video, you can check it out in the original article: Hatchery Horrors: Video Shows No Mercy for Baby Chicks. We asked: "How much cruelty must be tolerated? What can be done to deliver food with respect for the animals that give their lives to be part of our food chain?"
Readers have reacted passionately. Their arguments make fascinating reading. Whether they are raising chicks themselves, eating eggs, or entirely vegan, the reader reactions reflect a struggle to rationalize our impacts and responsibilities. If you don't have time to read all 65+ comments, we summarize the most interesting and provocative points here.The Conversation Begins
Bob started the conversation with a doozy of a comment:
Have you ever seen a cat play with a small animal? Ever seen a bird being gutted by a hawk while it was still alive? Nature is far more cruel than this. Get over it there are bigger battles to fight.
Ben immediately parries:
...the thing is, we aren't a bird or a cat, we are human people capable of compassion....I'm not a vegetarian and I never will be, I've no concerns about killing an animal for food, but all my foods are sourced from a lot more kind places.
Philosophy of Human Morality
Play_jurist (cute screen name, "plagiarist?") sees the bigger context:
I'm not quite sure I follow the comment above, which seems to be suggesting that humans should be as cruel as they please because nature is sometimes cruel. I shudder to think where that leaves the human concept of morality.
Furthering the topic of morality, Mike asks:
If we can't show compassion to small chicks, how can we possibly show compassion to each other?
JoshV reverses the question:
If we can't have compassion for each other, how can we possibly have compassion for these chicks?
Theresa sums up the point in the words of St. Francis of Assissi; Balance, who raises the specter of genocide when compassion fails, would certainly agree:
If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
Joshua points out the thinking behind such industrial practice:
The Grinding is actually the most humane way, it's very quick. The places that don't use that method do it more for the employees, because it's so traumatizing to the humans feeding them in.
Do a quick youtube search for Jamie Oliver and chicks, he did a "Where your food comes from" special on this, and started the show by killing about 50 chicks with carbon monoxide. He pointed out that this is standard practive all over the world. It's not a secret, but not discussed.
An anonymous commenter agrees:
I don't really see a problem here myself. This is how you feed thousands of people in a modern society. Although a bit shocking for most, I don't see how this grinder is any worse that the way I used to slaughter my own chickens when I was spending summers on farms as a child. It isn't any more cruel than sticking their head under an old bent nail and chopping off their heads with a hatchet.
Gary P. points out that it is not restricted to chickens and eggs:
Everybody who eats meat needs to accept that their choices cause innumerable deaths, and chick grinding is as humane as any other method of slaughter. Think of desperate fish caught in a net and then suffocating in a massive pile in the fishing boat's hold. Do you think that cows, pigs and chickens just don't wake up one morning? The shocking aspect is not the video, it is that so many people failed to imagine how their meat is "produced".
Little pitcher carries it to the extreme:
Proves my point that American business enjoys cruelty, whether to animals or to humans.
Vegan Versus Voracious
Unprovoked by the typical bravely anonymous commenter disparaging "dainty urban liberals," TH readers remained on topic. Many shared their methods for sourcing eggs or chicken meat locally, growing it themselves, or practicing a vegan diet.
Sana shares some stories of chickens in third world countries. While noting the upside: "A two minute walk gets you to a farmer's market," Sana questions the alternative practice of painting male chicks fluorescent colors to make them attractive as household pets. Sana concludes that becoming
a loved, fluorescent household pet, however, does beat being ground up alive.
Agnes argues that humans are not "designed" to eat meat, in the words of Harvey Diamond:
You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I'll buy you a new car.
Martin ignores the cruelties of nature to focus on human choice:
Humans do not need animal protein or animal products. Just as we didn´t need slaves a hundred years ago, even though it was OK, legal, and encouraged. Meat is also OK, legal, and encouraged, does it mean it´s good?
One commenter dares to ignore the relativity of ecological impacts, and challenges the vegans, anonymously of course:
How many rats, mice and bugs die to protect the crops you vegans eat?
Only one reader picked up on the suggestion from Mercy for Animals, that eggs should be labeled so customers are aware of the consequences of their choice. Umlud questions whether the word "warning" should proceed the labeling suggested by Mercy for Animals:
I think the statement should be there without the warning: the calm statement that thousands of male chicks were slaughtered to bring you the eggs. That in itself is a powerful message that doesn't confuse possible risks to one's health (which is what warning labels on products are there for) with the ethical treatment of animals (which normally doesn't warrant a warning label).
Andy Sums It Up Best
In the end, Andy sums it up better than I could:
Interesting ... I looked at other stories on Treehugger to compare the number of responses. Noone seems to care about eco-cities, the Amazon or even that a little girl is working as a trash collector.
But everyone seems to care about the one thing that effects them- their diet!
It seems to me that all of the responders defending their plant based diet and compassion to animals are actually doing something to help our planet.
What are the rest of us going to do?
Read all the Hatchery Horrors comments. Join in the conversation.
More on Animal Cruelty:
Hatchery Horrors, Mercy for Animals
Hatchery Horrors: Video Shows No Mercy for Baby Chicks
Heroes Star Tries to Stop Dolphin Hunt in Japan
So What Does the Inside of a Factory Farm Look Like Anyway? (Slideshow)
Animal Visuals Gives Bird's Eye View of Factory Farm Cage