Talking Turkey: Feathers, Proselytizing, and Hidden Videos
I grew up on a pig and cattle farm, and the few chickens in the shed did not make us a poultry business. Because we ended our small egg-laying operation before I was out of elementary school, my images are few: walking into the haze, dust, and floating feathers to collect warm eggs from the nests; watching dad rig up patchwork fencing to keep chickens in and foxes out; fearing and anticipating the typical butchering day with chopping block, headless birds, and smelly steamed feathers.
One other disclosure before delving into the new video controversy: Even though I hired out for farm work on several neighbor farms, I never had the joy of working at one of the numerous large turkey operations in our part of the state. The closest I came was one evening when a carload of us high school age American Graffiti wannabees were driving the gravel roads, and we stopped along a large pen where hundreds of turkeys were enjoying the night air. We found that if you pitch your voice just right and start chattering nonsense like a B-grade televangelist, the turkeys would gather and gobble along like an adoring audience. We were tempted to pass the hat and ask them for money.
Aside from what appears at Thanksgiving feasts and in footlong Subway sandwiches, I don’t see turkeys close up, so the recent video spread by an activist group is attention-grabbing. Is is fair? Every time one of these pig/chicken/turkey undercover clips surfaces, charges are leveled at both sides: the food producers are accused of animal abuse and the activists are accused of sensationalizing isolated situations for financial reasons. These two links give a sense of the issue:
I imagine an objective consumer could spend many hours researching the issue, but some things seem to be common sense: Farmers I know want to treat their animals well. Those who don’t should face consequences. Consumers should demand safe products from ethical producers. From what I see, that’s what most in the food industry strive for too.
But the key issue here might be something a bit different: some groups do not want any animals to be used as products at all. On one hand, that view would have saved me a lot of manure pitching on dad’s farm, but I just can’t see the world abandoning animal agriculture, so maybe all sides could work together to make it as safe and ethical as possible. by dan gogerty
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