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Bird is the Word

Today is International Respect for Chickens Day.

We wish we could be with United Poultry Concerns as they demonstrate at the White House and leaflet the springtime visitors to Washington, DC.

If you can’t join them, there are still things you can do today and through the month of May:

Ideas include leafleting on a busy street corner, holding an office party or classroom celebration, writing a letter to the editor, doing a radio call-in, tabling at your local church, school or shopping mall, hosting a vegan open house, posting a blog, or simply talking to family, friends or strangers about the plight – and delight – of chickens and how people can help them.

There’s one more thing you can do, and which VINE strongly encourages you to do today in honor of International Respect for Chickens Day: Remind people that chickens are birds.

Birdwatching is, along with gardening, the most popular hobby in the United States. Some people take it very seriously, setting out on dedicated hikes with their binoculars and life-lists. Others take it easy, sipping a cup of tea while enjoying the birds flocking to backyard feeders. Many devote themselves to, or at least support, efforts to preserve wild birds and their habitats. And then sit down to a chicken dinner.

What gives? Why the disconnect? That’s what we want you to find out, perhaps provoking reflection as you inquire.

Surely you must know someone who loves to watch some birds but eats others. Have a conversation with them today (or later in May). Begin by reminding them that chickens are birds not very different from the Prairie Chickens who are now the focus of preservation efforts in Kansas. Tell them that chickens are genetically and behaviorally almost indistinguishable from the Junglefowl of Southeast Asia, from whom all chickens descended and who still live free even as their “domesticated” cousins are abused in egg factories, poultry plants, and cockfighting pits.

Don’t accuse them of hypocrisy (a sure way to shut the conversation down). Instead, aim to make them uncomfortably aware of their own hypocrisy—a sensation that is much more likely to provoke change than being accused by somebody else. How? Ask questions from the position of your own befuddlement. You really don’t  understand how they can lavish love on robins while tearing the wings off baby chicks, do you? You might have some guesses as to what they are thinking (or not thinking), but you won’t really know without asking.

As they reply and justify, feel free to point out inconsistencies or inaccuracies but again do so from a position of inquiry. You can say something like, “Wait… you said [this], but that seems to contradict [that]… I’m confused” or “oh, I see… you believe [myth]… but I know that [fact]… does that change how you think about it?”

Let’s see how it goes. If nothing else, you’ll sow some doubts while collecting some useful data about how meat-eating bird-lovers think. Be sure to come back here and report your findings.

And… Happy International Respect for Chickens Day!

 

 

4 comments to Bird is the Word

  • Thanks for the reminder – I almost forgot the extra effort we should make today and throughout the month of May!

    If ever the contradiction of “why admire one and eat the other” was appropriate… Surely with our bird-friends it is!

  • victoria figurelli
    I have posters from Upc in front of my house the Month of May.People ask questions I try to explain. They say thats nicean look at me like I am crazy but I love and respect my birds they make me happy
  • I am a HUGE birder and this is a great blog post with excellent tips. I simply can’t understand how people can head out, gush over birds, and then go home to EAT one. I personally didn’t start to appreciate birds until I stopped eating them. I think maybe the cognitive dissonance of really enjoying chicken was keeping me acknowledging how great they are?

    Anyway, there are a few kinds of birders. Well, maybe it’s partly more of a continuum, but the point is that some birders just love birds, regardless of whether we’re talking about pigeons or Resplendent Quetzals (or chickens.) They recognize birds as individuals with their own rights, at least to some degree. Other birders love birds the way some people love flowers: as a beautiful, decorative resource for humans to enjoy. They think we should protect birds “for our children.” These are also the same type of people who draw a sharp line between desirable and undesirable birds, and some of them are even in favour of hunting because of the misguided belief that hunters are somehow necessary for preserving wild spaces. The latter type of birder is less likely to be swayed by your conversation because they’ve probably already placed chickens and turkeys into the “non-bird” category. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though, and I think your suggested method is definitely the best.

    Well, that was way more than I intended to write. But seriously, great post. Oh, and did you know that May 11th was World Migratory Bird Day?!

  • pattrice
    Becci: we did know and (appropriately) tweeted about World Migratory Bird Day.

    Thanks for this very useful break-down of types of birders. I agree that the latter type — those who see birds as delightful decorations or resources — must be approached differently. Let’s concentrate on that first group: Bird lovers. Have you had any conversations with them? What do you recommend in speaking with them.

    Everybody else: How did it go? If you haven’t had any convos yet, there’s still a week left in May!

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