Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get away from Lon Allan’s column in The Tribune. And I wish she—she being the chicken that crossed the road—had taken me with her. Although if she had, we would have needed to stop at the gas station first because I never commit to a road trip of any length without stocking up on supplies, including an 86-ounce Dr. Pepper, half a dozen Slim Jims, and maybe a pack of Rolos. Also, we would have needed to take a bathroom break. Never start a road trip without first using the Little Shredder’s room. (Someone used to tell me that, though I can’t remember who.)
But once our bladders had been relieved and our snack packs were overflowing, we’d cross that road with such disdain that even a man incapable of fashioning a better argument than “chickens don’t have lips” would have quivered with shame.
While I am impressed that The Tribune is doing well enough financially that it can throw away precious print space on 495 words of a crazed rant against chickens, I’m somewhat stymied by the fact that this is how they choose to toss aside that space. Couldn’t they at least take the time to find someone who hates something bigger and more threatening—like cows, or maybe horses? Allan’s column, “A law giving caged chickens more room? Only in California,” made four points:
1. Lon Allan knows chickens. (Or at least he thinks he does, as illustrated by the fact that he uses his first line to “remind those who have forgotten” that he was a poultry husbandry major at Cal Poly more than 50 years ago.) I would also like to take this opportunity to remind those who have forgotten that I majored in peanuts and stilt walking back in 1894, not that I’m arrogant enough to believe that any of you care.
2. Lon Allan hates chickens. I wish I could make something like this up, but apparently it’s true. After he informs us that he opted to make a living raising chickens, and that his family made a living raising chickens, he states: “I have written repeatedly in the past about how passionately I hate chickens.” Again, I’m genuinely impressed by The Trib’s decision to allocate space to a man who has apparently opted on more than one occasion to rail against poultry. Setting aside the fact that I’m completely and utterly baffled that he would choose to study and profit from an animal he proudly claims to loathe, I’m guessing the industry has seen some changes in the last 50-plus years.
3. Chickens have no lips. Again, I wish I had made this up, but the proud Cal Poly poultry husbandry major says that it is so, so I guess it’s true. I’m not really sure what the possession of lips, or lack thereof, has to do with the ethical treatment of animals, but since this is essentially Allan’s only argument to support his claim that both chickens and California are stupid, it must be an important statement. All I can say is that the theoretical chicken I theoretically crossed the road with was a total hottie, lips or no lips. Also, she was undoubtedly a better conversationalist than Lon Allan.
4. California is stupid. You may have figured that part out on your own from reading the title of his column, but I think it was a particularly bold move for a man who couldn’t manage to trot out the few legitimate concerns about the law—the increase in the cost of eggs and potential hardship to farmers—to go throwing around a word like “stupid.” There are rational arguments to be made, and tough ethical questions to be asked, and Allan’s argument is, “I don’t like ’em, they don’t have lips, fuck ’em.”
Crap. I just realized, in the name of giving Allan his fair due, that the columnist did have a fifth point in his campaign against the ethical housing of chickens: He can’t see their nonexistent lips moving, so he doesn’t understand what they’re trying to say. Really. “You can’t see their lips moving (see above; no lips) so we don’t even know if it is a joyous sound coming from either the caged birds or those allowed to wander around in, say, a barnyard setting. They sound the same to me.”
Also, something about the fact that they’re going to die anyway so it doesn’t matter how they’re treated while they’re alive—a philosophy I hope they never hear about in nursing homes.
The truly terrifying thing is that beside being really funny in a bizarre what-the-hell-is-this-man-railing-against sort of way, the underlying message of Allan’s column is that his inability to understand or empathize with a living creature should result in said creature receiving no legal protection against living a short life in abject misery.
The sad reality of an egg-producing chicken’s life is that it’s often confined to a mere 67 square inches of space. That’s smaller than a sheet of paper. The sad reality is that hundreds of millions of male chicks born at the hatcheries are killed each year merely because they can’t produce eggs and are therefore, in the eyes of the egg industry, without value. Allan might argue that none of that matters because they don’t have lips. He has a right to his opinion. I would argue that a man who doesn’t have enough of a conscience to recognize why this law is being enacted shouldn’t be given any more attention.
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