All Hail the Great Fowl
I’m a firm believer in compromise, ‘jaw jaw’ better than ‘war war’, moderation in all things etc., etc., but it has come to my attention that in some quarters (you know who you are) this is seen as nothing more than namby-pamby, wishy-washy, ineffectual fence-sitting. I beg to differ. It turns out that I am in fact a true follower of the Middle Way, recommended by the Buddha himself as the path of wisdom.
Lately, I’ve applied the doctrine of the Middle Way to meat-eating. I’d find it difficult to give it up completely, but can’t escape twinges of guilt as to the ethics and the environmental consequences of it. So where is the Middle Way between having 20-ounce steaks flown in from Argentina and being a vegan Jain who eschews root vegetables (even when they’re well cooked) because micro-organisms might have been killed in removing them from the soil?
I think I’ve found the answer. In future, let’s confine ourselves to preying on only one animal: the chicken. This would mean we could still have nourishing stock and therapeutic soup (a new book reveals that chicken contains cysteine, an amino acid used to treat bronchial infections), crisp skin – and the opportunity to deglaze the pan after creating it – not to mention coq au vin, chicken tikka masala, chicken chow mien and specialities from countless other countries.
From an environmental point of view, accommodating chickens does not entail deforestation and, not surprisingly, methane emissions would be far lower. What’s not to like?
. . . Unless you’re a chicken, of course. But in return for the sacrifice of their species, let’s raise them up to the status of gods. Tribal hunters revere and respect the animals that give them sustenance, and we should do no less. We should sweep away the battery cages and make woodland or a pleasant farmyard the birthright of every chicken. Reared in such conditions, they would no longer need the cocktail of antibiotics that currently threatens their health and ours.
In the fullness of time, once they are table-ready, there will be no trip to the charnel house and the conveyor belt: gentle chicken herders will administer a lethal injection as they sleep. (I’d have no objection to being despatched like that myself – and if people wanted to eat me afterwards, well, that would be a matter for them.)
Shrines to honour the chicken (the picture shows one I made earlier) would be erected in every town centre as a constant reminder of our debt to them. And ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ would cease to be a silly joke; it would instead be recognised as distilling the ineffable mystery of chickenhood.
Each year, on the Feast of the Martyrdom of the Fowls, we would sing ‘Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chicken’ and dance the Funky Chicken, and I would know that I had added immeasurably to the gaiety of nations.
I think I’ll go and lie down now.