Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Enough to become a vegetarian

Since I had internet television installed last November, I have access to over 120 channels from all over the world. A lot of them specialize in programs for kids – there even is such a thing as ‘Télé bébé’ (Baby television – can you imagine?) – and youngsters. These last channels mainly broadcast video clips and unlikely programs called ‘Sweet Sixteen’, in which super millionaires throw horrendously expensive birthday parties for their sixteen year old daughters!

However, there are some great movie channels broadcasting the old Hollywood classics and several documentary channels – National Geographic and Discovery Channel like – offering a vast selection of interesting shows regarding travel, food, culture, medicine, historic events, life style, health and beauty, etc.

Last Saturday, one of these channels showed an interesting documentary concerning the industrialized breeding of chickens. It was amazing to see how the fertilized eggs were put by thousands in trays to be hatched in large incubators. After ten days or so, the trays are examined using X-rays and the non fertilized – hollow/empty – eggs are removed from the trays. The remaining eggs are injected with a substance to protect the chick against some typical poultry diseases.

Aren't they cute ?

The thus treated eggs are then put back in the incubator till the chicks are hatched. It takes several hours for the little bird to free itself from its shell and yet another 4 hours until it is completely dry and fluffy! Up till this point I was fascinated … and then the horror began. The chicks were separated from their shell by putting them on a large shaking conveyor belt with holes in it. The holes were just large enough to let the chicks – being smaller than their shells - fall through, while the shells stayed on the belt!

Then the poor creatures were sprayed with an antibiotic to prevent them from getting … bronchitis! Next the males were separated from the females. This included another bumpy ride on a conveyor belt, being picked up by not too careful hands and people scrutinizing the length of the wing feathers. Apparently, the wing feathers of cockerels all have the same length, while the chickens have some that are shorter.

The chicks are tossed into funnels according their sex. They tumble down an intricate piping system to land on another conveyor belt at the end of which plastic crates are waiting to transport them to the large sheds were they will pass the rest of their days before being slaughtered. The cockerels have only a few weeks to live while the chickens last a few months.

If a human being were to undergo a similar human-size ride, he would certainly be covered in bumps, bruises and cuts. I bet some wouldn’t even survive such a violent experience…

At the end of the documentary the commentator summed it up nicely. Seeing this was enough to become a vegetarian or to stick to free range chickens! I think I’ll go for free range. They taste better anyway than the industrially produced birds. How do you feel about this?



Jean said...

Martine - there was a similar programme on UK TV a couple of years ago, presented by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Just like you, I was horrified and almost felt ashamed to be part of the human race, that we still treat animals the way we do in the 21st century.
Whenever possible, we buy free-range eggs from a local supplier or those labelled as free-range in the supermarket. The problem is, what about all the other products we buy that have eggs in them - they almost certainly come from factory-farmed hens.
Then there is the question of how we produce enough eggs to meet demand without the factory hens, even if people were prepared to pay a little more for them.
I don't know the answers but at least I can do my bit by trying to support producers who treat their hens with greater respect.

ladybird said...

Hi Jean, I like Jamie Oliver's shows! I hope he didn't approve of these horrible techniques, though?

I usually buy French free range 'Cocorette Fermier' eggs. They come from small farms that apply strict preset regulations. Can you get Cocorette in the UK?

chm said...

That's the ugly side of capitalism, as if there were a bright side at all. LOL-MDR

I'm sure the investors are happy!

Nadege said...


ladybird said...

Chm, Someone is certainly making money out of it, but the poor chicks never benefit from it!

Nadege, Sad and shameful, those are the right words for it!

19/01/2010 19:03

Ken Broadhurst said...

The question is, what happens to the chicks after they have been vaccinated, sprayed, and sorted. None of that seems especially shocking to me. What are their living conditions? How are they killed? Is the treatment humane? I'm afraid with the continuing increases in the Earth's human population -- and the French keep cocoricoing about how the population is now up to 65.4 million -- thing will just get worse and worse.

Jean said...

Ken - the Jamie Oliver programme left nothing to the imagination. Most chickens have an horrendously unnatural and uncomfortable short life.
I suppose that the treatment of animals is worse in other parts of the world and always has been. In Europe we're slightly better on the whole.
That's no excuse, though, for not finding ways to manage the whole business more humanely. Where there is most wealth is where it should start.
There was a scandal a while ago about workers playing baseball on the night shift using live turkeys as the ball in a well-known turkey processing factory in the UK. How can you fathom the mindset of people who do that kind of thing?

ladybird said...

Ken, I can assure you that seeing those little delicate creatures being tossed around, rolling over each other and falling a foot down on another conveyor belt or a plastic crate wasn't a very pretty sight. What a way to start your life ! And what happens afterwards is just as bad.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Martine, I just posted this comment on the wrong post:

I just read an article in the New York Times about how the Russians are stopping all imports of American chicken. They say it is not good because of the way it is raised. I'm sure that's true. Poor chickens...

ladybird said...

Ken, I visited Russia once in 1979 with a group of 40 language students (my then to-be, now late husband who studied Russian was one of them). One night we went to what was considered as a posh restaurant as the hotel food was just too disgusting. We had a chicken drumstick with rice. And I can assure you that it was free range and had lived a very, very, very, long life running hundreds of kilometres ... as it was as hard as concrete ! :)) No wonder the Russians are banning 'battery' chickens!