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.
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.
Baby chicks in boiler house
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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