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You, Me And 65 Million Chickens: Shifting To Sustainable Food Production, Without The Guilt

Industrial-style farming should certainly be reimagined, but not with a guilt-ridden assault on the livelihoods of millions of farmers, herders and fishermen.

Picture of a chicken drinking water in a poultry farm.

A chicken drinks water in one of poultry farmer Corry Spitters' barns in Canada.

Brigitte LG Baptiste


BOGOTÁ — The bones of 65 million chickens eaten every year will leave a mark on the planet, with scientists and diggers citing them one day as evidence of our existence, alongside radioactivity and microplastics. That was the conclusion of a study from the University of Leicester in England, on the ecology of a planet dominated by human settlements.

Chickens, boiled, roasted and shredded, represent perfectly what we are doing to the planet, in material and symbolic terms. Mass violence isn't the preserve of terrorists, to be sure.

Over 5,000 years, this essentially flightless bird, originally from India, according to the Audubon Society, has become the main source of animal protein for people across the world. With their legs tied, caged or sitting in baskets, these birds eventually made their way to the most remote Amazon settlements and to our country's highlands.

In our homes, there was always room for a chicken or two, even if, unlike our dogs, there was little emotional attachment on either side. A chicken is just a chicken — if it isn't an endearing, colorful ornament at a kids' party, that is.

Revising our footprint 

We feed and stuff them, and annihilate them en masse for a hearty meal. Think of the street-side rotisseries roasting hundreds of chickens every day. These altars of death are testimony to the way we have simplified all fauna and flora to suit our needs.

All we want is a simple ménagerie of useful animals like cows and pigs, horses and ducks, or fleshy fish like tilapia. Why not? These "collaborative," altered animals would disappear in a new, neurotic worldview that refuses to contemplate the naturalness of death and the world's ecological and adaptive cycles.

Our abilities today to revise our footprint will help us face the next stage of civilization.

If ever there were a great, "compassionate transition" in which we stop exploiting other sentient beings, dozens of societies living off hunting, fishing and herding, would disappear.

Today, some three billion people depend on fishing and aquaculture, while another 500 million people in traditional economies live off herding and need their animals for such basics as dairies, wool or transport. This isn't necessarily torture as some animal defenders insist. There is a problem of perception, when you live in a city and think keeping a dog in a flat is kindness, not to mention putting bees to work for honey.

Photos of baby chicks in a boiler house

Baby chicks in boiler house

Edwin Remsberg/VW Pic/Zuma

Toward sustainable exploitation 

The triumph of human adaptability on the planet has certainly relied on practices that are questionable, and should be debated. But our abilities today to revise our footprint, reflect on our actions and put our accrued resources to good use, will help us face the next stage of civilization.

And that may or may not entail further millions of boned and feathered chickens. Our progression toward a sustainable exploitation of the world cannot, in any case, be rooted in guilt or nostalgia, and must rely on knowledge and innovation. We've had a couple of thousands years of guilt over our "original sin," so let's not replace it with another, dismal storyline, just to become better people.

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Biden Wades Into Sensitive Debate About Whether To Trust Gaza Death Tolls

While everyone acknowledges the civilian toll is climbing in Gaza, a new doubt has begun to spread in recent days about the reliability of the death counts given by Gaza’s government, which is run by Hamas. U.S. President Joe Biden now says he doesn't believe the numbers at all, which has set off criticism about his lack of both sources and "empathy."

photo of a corpse wrapped in a sheet and people praying

Mourners on Wednesday pray over the body of one of the victims of Israeli air raids in Gaza.

Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images via ZUMA
Emma Albright and Jakob Mieszkowski-Lapping

Updated Oct. 26, at 2 p.m.

The Gaza health ministry has again updated the total Palestinian death toll, as it’s done regularly for the past two weeks. The ministry reported late Thursday that at least 6,546 Palestinians have been killed across Gaza since the current Israeli-Hamas conflict began two weeks ago, including 2,704 children.

Yet, even as all acknowledge the civilian toll is climbing, a new doubt has begun to spread in recent days about the reliability of the death counts given by Gaza’s government, which is run by Hamas.

In a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden was the latest to cast doubt on the health ministry’s numbers, saying “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.”

He added that he was “sure innocents [had] been killed, and it’s the price of waging war.”

Biden’s statement of doubt was quickly criticized for lacking both evidence and empathy. U.S. journalist Max Fisher called the president’s assertion “quite a charge to make without evidence.”

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