For those of you who read last week's column on the plague of frogs at my house: relax. This week's headline does not refer to my new frog reduction program.
Honestly, after finding frogs on the trees, under the deck and in my basement, about the last place I want to find a frog is on my dinner plate.
No, it refers to a new PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) campaign against a major fast food retailer, which we will not name but instead refer to by the code, “KFC.” PETA alleges that KFC has made misleading statements about its treatment of chickens.
Strangely enough, PETA doesn't have a beef with what KFC itself does to chickens, which is to throw them in a deep fryer. No, they are upset about what happens before that, to chickens on the farm. Given that, not so long ago, dismemberment and boiling oil was the punishment reserved for peasants who had annoyed the king, I wasn't sure I understood their logic.
So I checked out the campaign. Apparently, life as a chicken isn't much fun. From birth until the white-meat-in-a-crispy-golden-brown-breading stage, it's hard going. Chickens on the farm are subjected to rough handling, painful procedures, overcrowding and toxic fumes. I'm sure all of you out in corporate cubicle land can relate.
And that's assuming you're not one of the thousands of chicks siphoned off every year at Easter for a brief career as a cute basket accessory. After several days of being squished, poked and prodded by over-sugared toddlers, these fowl soon get chucked out on to the street. Here, they have to peck out a meager living in the back alleys, fighting for space amongst the other no-longer-popular pets like iguanas, tarantulas, ferrets and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. Assuming the boa constrictors don't eat them all first.
Okay, seriously for a moment, mass livestock operations are not great places, and PETA does well to point out that these places could be made a lot better. The problem with PETA is, well… the problem with PETA is features like “The Hidden Lives of Chickens.”
This feature has a picture of a celebrity posing with a chicken. It has quotes like – “some chickens like classic rock, while others like classical music” and “chickens are as smart as small children” and “There are hidden depths to chickens, definitely.”
Yes, it's this sort of thing that causes professional joke writers all around the world to shout “woohoo!” and scribble down several pages worth of material before heading out to the golf course for the rest of the week.
This is because no one is going to seriously believe that poultry have passions. Consider the following:
CHICK: Dad, I've decided. I want to be an author. Think of it! I could be as big a literary name as Chicken Little!
CHOOK: Sorry kid. You're destined to be a buffalo wing.
CHICK: But I even know how to type! I hunt and peck!
CHOOK: It's either honey garlic or barbecue sauce. Now get over it.
I sympathize with the overall message, and wish that we didn't have to kill and eat things. I can't even cut up a salad without remembering an article I read once which said that plants show a spike in electrical response when you cut them – in effect a silent scream. Try not to think about what it must be like when you mow your lawn,
But since we can't even get them to answer a very simple question, (why did you cross the road anyway?), when it comes to claiming hidden depths to chickens … well…
I have to cry fowl.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.