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Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Care of all Creatures

As I was standing in the kitchen this morning, putting together the ingredients for a dark rum, dark chocolate chip banana bread, I heard Hubby begin talking to me from the living room. He was telling me about California passing a law concerning how chickens are caged. Chicken farmers there now have to make sure the cage in which a chicken is kept be big enough for the chicken to stretch its wings. I could tell by the tone of Hubby's voice that he thought this new law ridiculous, and as he continued, bringing up how the farmers are going to have to spend a lot of money to make the required changes, how the price of eggs is going to go up, and how there will be an egg shortage because of this new law, I could feel myself becoming annoyed. Right in front of me were the lovely brown shells of two eggs I had just used in the banana bread batter. Those eggs came from hens that run free, that greet us when we step from our car, that I've watched chase bugs across the yard. Happy hens. Thinking about hens that cannot even stretch their wings makes me incredibly sad.

Then Hubby asked me what I thought of this new law. By this point, my annoyance and sadness had combined to become anger. I could hear the terseness in my response, that I thought the law was necessary to ensure a better, more comfortable life to those creatures that give to us. We are the caretakers, I said, and we should show some compassion. Hubby then says something like (I know this isn't word for word, but it does capture the essence of what he said), "Just as Temple Grandin said, animals wouldn't have been put here unless it was for us to eat them." I'm a huge Temple Grandin fan, and I know this isn't what she said. Not even close. My response to Hubby indicated he was mistaken, that while Temple Grandin doesn't see an ethical issue with eating meat, she does believe animals deserve respect. This respect includes the way they are housed, the way they are treated, and especially how they meet their death. Not to allow hens to stretch their wings is disrespectful of a basic physical function. I can't imagine the discomfort they must feel.

The conversation pretty much ended there, but I've been thinking about it since. I've been entertaining the idea of building a small coop behind the house, near the beehive, and now I want to do so even more. I want to create a space in which two or three hens can live a happy, comfortable life. I want to be a steward, living mindfully and purposefully, my actions creating a peaceful and happy environment. I don't want to be the kind of person who accepts without further thought the idea that eggs just appear in the grocery store for my consumption, without acknowledging the lives of the creatures that produced those eggs. Those creatures are more then "just" chickens. They are a part of the whole. They provide something another part of the whole takes, uses, enjoys. As such, they should receive something in return, even if it's simply a larger cage in which they can spread their wings.

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