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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/18/16

One Brave Chicken Farmer

Message Suzana Megles
Recently, I came across an older post from Nicholas Kristof written in December 2014. It was titled "Abusing chickens we eat." He started his post by saying that if we buy a Perdue chicken in the grocery store, we may think it had lived a comfortable avian middle-class existence. He even quoted Jim Perdue, the company's chairman as saying in a promotional video that the company's labels carry a seal of approval from the department of Agriculture. However, be that as it may -- one producer of Perdue chickens - Craig Watts had the guts to finally say --enough is enough, and he completely discredited Perdue's claims.
He finally blew the whistle on the poultry industry by bringing in cameras to show what life is really like in the chicken breeding houses of the Perdue Farms. I always cringed when I saw Perdue on television hawking his products. I knew that his chickens were not being treated well, and so I was glad that one farmer had the courage to finally come forward and expose Perdue's false claims and expose the horrible treatment of their
For those who soothe their consciences when buying chickens which carry labels "natural," "humanely raised," "organic," and "cage-free," Watts said that these terms are basically meaningless. When asked on Reddit "What does it matter how they're raised when we're going to eat them anyways?" Watts had a ready reply.

To this very sad, and unfeeling question which all too many people also probably ask as well, Watt's said: "Well, it does matter. If you've been paying attention to the news --there's a lot of issues with food borne illnesses with poultry. These chickens come loaded with salmonella, e coli, and staff (sic). Even if you don't care about welfare, they're getting
sick because of the ways they're raised. And that is something everyone should care about....How you treat animals reveals your true character."
Compassion in World Farming videotaped his poultry farm, and from the background picture one could see a SEA of chickens in this factory barn enclosure with no place for the chickens to move or go. It made me want to ask people who see nothing wrong with this picture -- how would you like to be in a crowded place with no place to go? And worse yet-have to smell the urine vapors and fecal droppings. I don't know how they handle this aspect of raising chickens but certainly the smells must be horrific for not only humans but for the chickens as well. And of course, the chickens are not able to walk out into the sunlight and fresh air. They simply exist until they are sent to horrific slaughtering which finally releases them from a very cruel life and existence.
People may criticize me for anthropomorphizing, but as far as I am concerned -- it is simply applying the golden rule which should apply to all living beings. And so to answer the question of that uncaring individual who asked what does it matter to them since we are going to eat them anyways -it matters a lot to each and every one of those hundreds and hundreds of chickens crowded in that airless factory barn from hell because their lives
are precious to them as ours are to us.
Watts also remarked that many farmers would also love to speak out against the industry but are worried about job security. He places 80% of them in this category. But he also notes that change won't come until the poultry companies become more transparent and with farmers being given more control over their farms.
Regarding as to why he had to speak out and go public -- he noted that once he had -it was like having an anvil lifted off his chest. Is he worried about losing a contract? No, he says because he is lucky that he doesn't have much debt- unlike a lot of the other chicken farmers. So, he feels that if he had to fall on the sword to make it better for the rest, so be it.
The very sad part of all of this though is that Watts' chickens were being raised according to the USDA's Process Verified program which meant in theory that they were cage free, fed an all-vegetarian diet, received no animal by products or antibiotics and are considered humanely raised. Too bad the USDA doesn't make visual inspections of places which their policies seem to condone.
The film revealed heart breaking conditions: deformed chicks, bellies warn raw from contact with feces-saturated litter, heart and lungs and legs too weak to support the oversized breasts, and awful leg deformities. There is nothing remotely humane or natural about any of these observations.
In another report re chicken raising- Maryn McKenna wrote: There's a lot of flaws in the system. The consumer's being hoodwinked. The farmer's being jerked around.
As for Watts- he said he would like to do some things to make it better for his chickens. He would get rid of the walls and let in the sunshine and fresh air. Of course, his contract with Perdue would not allow this. The chickens in the Perdue system never see daylight except when being transported in and out of the house.
Someone -after studying the process of raising chickens so aptly remarked -- "It's going to have to be a start-over. We're past rewind here. This has gone too far." And what bothers me most is what an inefficient and uncaring USDA we have. And then ditto too I guess -- Congress and
President Obama. If they were more concerned about farm animal suffering then these factory farms would not exist.
I know that there are some compassionate legislators in Congress. Just today I got a copy of the HSUS Scoreboard showing how legislators voted on animal welfare bills. You can also find it on the internet if interested on how your legislators voted.
I am also disappointed that none of the questions posed the presidential candidates are being queried about their views re factory farms and resulting animal suffering. And so I was very happy to read this morning on Mother Jones that Tom Philpot also recognized this omission. His post
title read "6 Things I would Ask the Presidential Candidates About Food and Farming." I let out a silent hooray. I am not the only one concerned re this lack in presidential screening.
He also so aptly noted that- "Everyone-from the socialist Vermont Jew with the excellent Brooklyn accent to the xenophobic billionaire reality- TV star--is largely ignoring food and farm policy on the stump." Why is that? I can only surmize that there are not enough of us who care enough to make some noise on this subject. And that's truly a pity. But I hope I am wrong, and that these debate leaders will finally ask questions about a topic which should be important to anyone who believes that farm animals should be treated compassionately.

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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