Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PAWS on mtvU

Check it out!


  1. As someone who has a small group of chickens in my backyard and has raised them for their eggs for years, I was particularly disturbed by the video images of chickens in your spot for mtvU. My chickens live in a large cage on the ground and are permitted to roam outside during the day (they are locked in at night to prevent them from being eaten by neighborhood coyotes). What disturbed me about the video may surprise you. Having a great deal of exposure to chickens over the years, I have come to realize that some of them do, in fact, die regardless of how they are kept and that sometimes chicks don't develop correctly and hatch with deformities and limitations - even in open, cage-free environments. Many of the segments of video being shown (such as the video of the chick with splayed legs) are depicting unfortunate yet commonplace, natural events in many animals (and sometimes even human) life. It is unfortunate that these video segments are being used by animal rights activist groups to paint the egg producer as cruel and abusive with no concern for the welfare of their animals. This could not be further from the truth. I have had the opportunity to visit many agricultural, meat producing operations and find that most producers are highly concerned with their animals welfare and often go above and beyond what is required by regulations to ensure their animals are well-cared for. I often hear the argument that livestock producers are only concerned about their "bottom line" and disregard the welfare of their animals just to increase profit. This statement defies logic. Animals are living things and if they are stressed or unhappy or lacking food, water and proper living conditions, they - just as humans - will not perform at their peak. Therefore - even if producers were only concerned with their "bottom line" - it would still be in their best interest to treat their livestock humanely. I think it is unfortunate that so much of the public is so far removed from agriculture that they no longer have any idea about what really goes on on farms and ranches and depend solely on the propaganda of animal rights groups with anti-meat agendas to educate themselves. It would be great if everyone would approach the issue objectively and truly learn production agriculture's side of the story before passing judgement on them.

  2. Thanks for your comment, anonymous. I wish you had left your name so I could ask you more questions - I hope you will check back and respond again.

    I'm very interested to hear more about your perception of industrial meat production, which is clearly different from raising chickens in your backyard. You write that (1) producers do not only care about maximizing profits, and that (2) even if they did, in order to maximize profits they would need care of their animals. I have to disagree with you on both points.

    First, as an economics major at Princeton, I know that firms do--and should--maximize profits. Profit maximization is the fundamental basis of firm behavior in a free-market society. Now, producers could treat their animals humanely because they know that's what consumers want, so treating the animals humanely would lead to more sales and better profits (and some producers are doing that), but you can't deny that the producers are only looking out for their bottom line. Of course, I'm refering here to the large corporations that now dominate meat and egg production. This may not apply in your case because you may get personal pleasure out of raising chickens in addition to any profit you may receive. For the vast majority of the suppliers of our meat and eggs, the bottom line is all that matters.

    On your second point, that producers need to treat animals well or else the animals will not produce good meat, is also inaccurate. Producers care about aggregate production, not individual production. For example, say you have a shed with a certain area. You can put 1000 chickens in the shed comfortable (only 5% die prematurely), or you can put 3000 chickens in the shed under very cramped, stressful and inhumane conditions (where 50% die prematurely). You seem to be saying that the producers would automatically choose the former, because happy chickens produce better products. However, that choice is not the economically rational one. In this case, the former would leave you with 900 chickens, and the latter with 1500 chickens. Even though the cramped conditions kill more chickens and gives the remaining chickens a lower egg-laying rate, the producer would still be better off placing the chickens in inhumane chickens. This is the unfortunate reality of animal production: animals are mere commodities, where the individual life doesn't matter, only production of the group as a whole.

    Feel free to tell me more about the farms you visited. Where they what some might consider "factory farms"?