“Mother hen”: Resting in the grass, a mother hen carries/camouflages four+ chicks under her wings. CC image via topinambour on Flickr.
Along with The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book, the Book Publishing Company sent me a copy of Karen Davis’s Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, which I’ve had my eye on for some time now. (The book is now in its second edition; you can download the first ed. for free as a .pdf file here, via United Poultry Concerns.) With five out of six chapters down, I’m not yet ready to offer a review, but I will say that it’s excellent – a must read, and a difficult one, at that. Not difficult intellectually, but emotionally: battery and broiler farms are the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno come to life. You will need to read this book from the bottom of a dog pile – soft fur and warm bellies were the only things to keep me from breaking down in tears some nights. The scale and depth of suffering is simply unfathomable.
Anyhow, whether intentionally or not, Davis writes quite a bit about issues of intersectionality in Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs. The gendered nature of egg production is an obvious topic, but the shared suffering does not stop there. For example, Davis explains what becomes of “spent” laying hens – that is, hens whose bodies are (prematurely, tragically, needlessly) depleted of calcium and other nutrients, such that they’re no longer capable of laying eggs. Their fate is a gruesome one, however, it’s only one link in a long chain of abominations:
At slaughter, spent laying hens are a mass of broken bones, abscesses oozing yellow fluids, bright red bruises, internal hemorrhaging, and malignant tumors. They’ve lost 40 percent or more of their feathers, and because they are economically “worthless,” they sit in transport cages in all weathers at the slaughterhouse “until all other birds are dealt with – up to 12 hours.” The slaughtered birds are shredded into products that hide the true state of their flesh and their lives: chicken soups, pies, and nuggets, commercial mink and pet food, livestock and poultry feed, and school lunches and other institutionalized food service and government purchase programs designed by the egg industry and the Department of Agriculture to dump dead laying hens onto consumers in diced up form. **
In order to mask the abuses inflicted upon the bodies and psyches of egg-laying hens, the industry dismembers – nay, grinds – them into unrecognizable bits. These bits are then fed to the most vulnerable among us: enslaved and exploited nonhuman animals, including the dead hens’ kin; “pets,” including dogs and cats; children who attend public schools, particularly those who rely on the school lunch system; “institutionalized food service and government purchase programs,” such as those that “feed” incarcerated men and women; and working-class and impoverished Americans, whose only access to food may come in the form of fast food joints. One injustice fuels the next, with no end in sight. (Sigh. Where’s that dog pile?!)
“Rescued egg laying hens: A group of rescued egg laying hens, malnourished and suffering from feather loss, are pictured here shortly after being rescued from battery cages and brought to Farm Sanctuary.” CC image via Farm Sanctuary on Flickr.
Speaking of “pet” food, if this isn’t a good enough reason to switch your dog-kids (and possibly your cat-kids, too) to a vegan diet, I don’t know what is. I get no small amount of shit from omni’s about the “questionable healthfulness” of feeding my dog-kids vegetarian and/or vegan foods – and yet, these are the ingredients of “nutritionally balanced” commercial, meat-based dog and cat foods: hens so used and abused that they’re likened to refuse by the egg and “meat” industries! So yeah, save your faux concern, people; I’m not interested, really.
In regards to vegan dog food, I figured that since I’ve been featuring more and more recipes for homemade food on these here pages, I ought to offer some background info and caveats. Possibly you noticed a new page link appear in the sidebar last week; the Dog Food Disclaimer includes details on how and what I feed my dog-kids, as well as a list of food and non-food items to avoid. It’s a work in progress, so if you see a need for any additions or corrections, leave me a comment, please!
Finally, I’ve a link for you. Two, actually. Yesterday, Deb and I both wrote about art-as-activism over at Animal Rights & AntiOppression. Deb shared with us the artwork of Ashley Watson, a self-described “vegan-feminist-animal rights” artist and proud member of the women’s studies set. Inspired by the work of Carol Adams, her art attempts to draw our attention back to the absent referent – the once-living animal who was enslaved, tortured, killed, dismembered, processed and repackaged in order to bring us our thrice-daily servings of “meat”stuffs. According to Deb, Ashley’s vegan/feminist art is “being installed at Rutgers University for a feminist art program there” – so if you’re in the area, spread the word and stop by and show Ashley(‘s installation) some love. (Details here.)
Deb’s post reminded to to watch a video short I’d bookmarked the night before. In ‘The Chicken Coup,’ artist/musician Nathan Meltz uses dreary, monochromatic animation in order to capture the mechanized, impersonal nature of industrialized egg production.
This piece hit me hard, possibly because I just finished reading the chapter on “laying hens” in Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs. Meltz manages to capture the desperation of a would-be mother whose maternal instinct has been manipulated and perverted by human greed and callousness. No, not just perverted, but turned inwards and used as a weapon against her. (Read more about Nathan Meltz at AR&AO.)
Of course, it’s worth noting that factory farms aren’t the actual enemy here; rather, the property ownership of living beings and the domination of animals and nature is to blame. “Small,” “sustainable,” “family” farms are only better in (slight) degree – if that, and with ever-decreasing frequency. (Hence all the scare quotes.)
* Based on an (in)famous, oft-repeated quote from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk: “When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” I hope it goes without saying, but this in no way shape or form signals my support of Newkirk et al.
** Pages 80-81. References have been removed for aesthetics, but can be provided upon request.
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