Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On chickens and Thomas Friedman

From Homegrown Evolution: "How will we know when our country has climbed out of its current morass? A city will cite someone for not having chickens."

This comment came after reading about a family who keeps 19 Barred Rock chickens on a 2 1/4 acre lot in a rural part of the town of Lancaster, Texas, who have been told that the city is going to crack down on a ban against chickens. Read about that here.

It's odd to me that people get so upset over chickens. There are several folks in my urban neighborhood who keep big dogs. I love dogs, but they bark, they poop everywhere, and if not taken care of, can really stink up a place. Chickens squawk, but rarely as loudly as a big dog barks, they poop in their run or in our yard, and, like dogs, if not taken care of, can really stink up a place. And in the case of both dogs and chickens, owner attentiveness eliminates the smell issue.

As a vegetarian and former "farm girl," it's curious to me how we privilege certain animals over others. As a culture, we seem to think that animals who have no purpose other than our amusement are somehow different from those who provide us with food, clothing, medicines. Thus, we dichotomize domestic animals and "farm" or "research" animals. The truth is, all animals are capable of experiencing pain and pleasure. Our "girls" (as we call our chickens) have distinctive personalities, let us know when they are hungry or want to roam in the yard, and yes, provide us with beautiful and delicious eggs. And we are as attached to them as we are to our cats and dog.

And it's not just about animal welfare. When the fundamental principles of our society are coming into question by people like Thomas Friedman, who, in his Sunday column in the New York Times , called our current economic and environmental crisis "The Great Disruption," we know we need to do something different.

Chickens may seem like a minor issue, but, as author and chicken owner Marye Audet writes, "In the Depression a family could survive with enough land to plant a garden, a few chickens, and a goat. Many families did just that. Apparently they did not live in Lancaster."


Heather said...

We plan to have chickens in our new yard. No problem on the island, but it is also good to hear that the City of Vancouver. BC is planning to allow people to keep backyard chickens. (Although there are some Italian families who never stopped!) The city also recently allowed beekeeping within city limits.

Jon said...

In Going Local Michael Shuman describes Asian cities with chickens outnumbering dogs. It's cool to see people actually making it happen here.

Not sure what to make of Friedman's latest. The billionaire never-met-a-free-trade-deal-he-didn't-like advocate for preemptive invasion of Iraq ("let's just stay for another 6 months, there's progress being made") suddenly discovers the ecological roots of production. Hmmm, do we dare trust his latest inclination? What's next, a sudden realization that capitalism requires externalization of social costs? Stay tuned.


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