1. ‘Bird Brain’ Is a Compliment
Several recent studies have shown that chickens are bright animals, able to solve complex problems, demonstrate self-control, and worry about the future. Chickens are smarter than cats or dogs and even do some things that have not yet been seen in mammals other than primates. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, “As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.” Dr. John Webster of Bristol University found that chickens are capable of understanding cause and effect and that when chickens learn something new, they pass on that knowledge (i.e., they have what scientists call “culture”).
2. All Drugged Up
Quite simply, chickens are the most abused animals on the planet. Chickens raised for their flesh are packed by the thousands into massive sheds. They are fed large amounts of antibiotics and drugs to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. The antibiotics make chickens grow so large, so fast that they often become crippled under their own weight. This reckless use of antibiotics also makes drugs less effective for treating humans by speeding up the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
3. Scalded to Death
Only seven weeks after they are born, chickens are crowded onto trucks that transport them to the slaughterhouse. Tens of millions of chickens have their wings and legs broken in the process every year. They are trucked through all weather extremes, sometimes over hundreds of miles, without any food or water. At slaughter, chickens are hung upside-down and have their throats slit, and they are often scalded to death in defeathering tanks.
4. They Don’t Even Get a Lawyer
The billions of chickens killed each year are not protected by a single federal law—the “Humane Slaughter Act” exempts birds, even though there are more than 55 times as many chickens slaughtered each year as pigs and cows combined! Chickens raised for their flesh have their sensitive beaks cut off with a hot blade without any painkillers. These intelligent animals spend their entire lives in filthy sheds with tens of thousands of other birds, each getting about as much space as a sheet of paper, where intense crowding and confinement lead to outbreaks of disease. If factory-farm owners treated cats and dogs like they treat chickens, they would go to jail for cruelty to animals.
5. Do You Want Poop With That?
A USDA study found that more than 99 percent of broiler chicken carcasses sold in stores had detectable levels of E. coli, indicating fecal contamination. In other words, if you’re eating chicken flesh, you’re almost certainly eating poop. Consumer Reports states there are “1.1 million or more Americans sickened each year by undercooked, tainted chicken.” Chicken flesh is also loaded with dangerous levels of arsenic, which can cause cancer, dementia, neurological problems, and other ailments in humans. Men’s Health magazine recently ranked supermarket chicken number one in their list of the “10 Dirtiest Foods” because of the high rate of bacterial contamination.
6. Lose the Fat, Avoid the Flu
Both the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization say that if the avian flu virus spreads to the United States, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the disease. Chicken flesh and eggs are packed with cholesterol—a 3-ounce piece of skinless chicken breast meat has as much cholesterol as beef, and just one egg has nearly three times as much! This cholesterol, along with a high intake of animal fats, blocks arteries and causes heart disease. Vegan foods, on the other hand, are all cholesterol-free and much lower in fat!
7. The Most Dangerous Factory Job in America
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, slaughterhouse workers are more than three times more likely to suffer injuries while working than workers in other manufacturing jobs, and they suffer a rate of repetitive stress injury that is 35 times higher than that in other manufacturing jobs. The industry refuses to make working conditions safer by slowing line speeds or buying appropriate safety gear, which amounts to what Human Rights Watch calls “systematic human rights violations embedded in meat and poultry industry employment.” Big chicken companies such as Tyson and Perdue also exploit contract factory-farm operators, whom Auburn University economist Robert Taylor calls “serfs with a mortgage.” Contract factory farmers are forced to foot the bill for building and maintaining massive factory farms, which puts them deeply into debt and can drive them to financial ruin if their company cancels future contracts with them.
8. Motherly Love
In a natural setting, a hen will cluck to her chicks before they even hatch while she sits on the eggs in her nest. They peep back to her and to each other through their shells. In factory farms, eggs are taken from the mother as soon as they are laid and put in large incubators—a chick will never meet his or her parents. Hens prefer to have private nests hidden from predators and will often go without food or water in order to obtain a private nest. This demonstrates the fact that hens will sacrifice their own comfort if it means protecting their chicks.
9. Chicken Sh*t
Raising 9 billion chickens in factory farms each year produces enormous amounts of excrement. Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke says that factory farming amounts to “a frontal assault on the environment,” which leads to widespread fecal ground and water pollution. Because chickens are fed massive amounts of drugs, hormones, and pesticides, these chemicals are also found in high concentrations in their feces, which means that fecal pollution from chicken farms is especially disastrous for the environment. In West Virginia and Maryland, for example, scientists have recently discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this freakish deformity is the result of factory-farm runoff from drug-laden chicken feces.