September 5th, 2009


What Obama Should Do

Lead the charge. We didn't hire the man to be tentative, we hired him to make a difference.

Robert Borosage | Obama's September Choice: Charge or Trim?
Robert Borosage, The Campaign for America's Future: "As Congress returns from its summer recess, President Obama, slipping in the polls, assailed on all sides by the carpers, faces a strategic choice: Lead the charge, rally Democrats, and push forward on his agenda, starting with health care reform or trim his sails and adopt a more cautious course."

A Better Way to Handle Extra Chicks

I was disturbed by this article. Every once in a while, the animal-rights activists spot something that's really troublesome.

Video Shows Price of Cheap Eggs: Chicks Ground Up Alive
A video just released by Mercy For Animals from Hy-Line Hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, the largest hatchery for egg-laying breed chicks in the US, confirms what has been rumored for years about the egg industry: that newborn males, which are worthless to the industry, are ground up alive in chopping machines called macerators.

Now this is a complicated issue for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Food must be affordable. If it is not, people riot and smash the nation and replace it with something they hope will actually feed them.

  • Animal suffering is bad. It diminishes the quality of the food derived from those animals, plus it makes people oblivious to the suffering of others, which raises the overall misery level in the world. It also makes animals stressed and sick, which encourages owners to over-medicate them, which eventually undermines the effectiveness of drugs in treating human illnesses. Some livestock suffering is unavoidable, but it should be kept to an absolute minimum. Dumping chicks on a conveyer belt and grinding some of them alive is not "minimum."

  • Factory farming is effective at producing mass quantities of food, but not very good at producing high-quality food, and downright terrible on many safety counts including environmental and disease ones. Other styles of farming can produce much better food with much fewer drawbacks; the tradeoff is lower efficiency and slightly or greatly higher prices.

  • Jobs need to be available to everyone who is willing and able to work. They must pay enough for people to meet all their basic needs and, preferably, an occasional luxury. This means that wages must easily cover a healthy diet. Right now this is not widespread, and it's causing problems.

  • I can see some solutions to aspects of this situation, some of which are easy to implement and others harder.

    First, stop throwing live chicks into a grinder. If they must be macerated, find a humane way of killing them first. This is not difficult; people were using CO2 to euthanize chickens during the bird flu scare.

    Second, it is extremely wasteful to destroy healthy livestock simply because you personally don't need it. Solution: sell the male chicks at a deep discount (as most commercial hatcheries do) or even give them away free to anybody who wants them. Since there are numerous hungry people in America and a chicken can be raised for free on scraps or grazing, this would be a great way to feed people. Male chickens are perfectly edible and, indeed, hatcheries routinely sell cheap packages of male chicks to be raised for meat. This could be implemented immediately at no cost, or even at a profit, to the corporations.

    Third, people who consider this practice unacceptable can boycott companies who do it -- a standard American means of expressing displeasure -- and instead buy from more responsible providers. Or you could raise your own chickens, or barter with someone who does, and cut out the market that way.

    This article makes me even happier about the 3 dozen eggs sitting in my fridge from happy little homestead hens.

    Also worth reading is this essay about home-scale chicken butchering: