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A Compassionate Chicken Farmer

Story ID:10864
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:- N.Carolina usa
Year:2016
Person:Craig Watts
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Recently, I came across an older post from Nicholas Kristof written in December 2014.
It was titled “Abusing chickens we eat.” He started his post by saying that if we buy
a Perdue chicken in the grocery store, we may think it had lived a comfortable avian
middle-class existence. He even quoted Jim Perdue, the company’s chairman as saying
in a promotional video that the company’s labels carry a seal of approval from the
Department of Agriculture. However, be that as it may – one producer of Perdue
chickens - Craig Watts had the guts to finally say –enough is enough, and he completely
discredited Perdue’s claims.


He finally blew the whistle on the poultry industry by bringing in cameras to show what
life is really like in the chicken breeding houses of the Perdue Farms. I always cringed
when I saw Perdue on television hawking his products. I knew that his chickens were not
being treated well, and so I was glad that one farmer had the courage to finally come
forward and expose Perdue’s false claims and expose the horrible treatment of their chickens.

For those who soothe their consciences when buying chickens which carry labels
“natural,” “humanely raised,” “organic,” and “cage-free,” Watts said that these terms
are basically meaningless. When asked on Reddit “What does it matter how they’re
raised when we’re going to eat them anyways?” Watts had a ready reply.

To this very sad, and unfeeling question which all too many people also probably ask as
well, Watt’s said: “Well, it does matter. If you’ve been paying attention to the news –
there’s a lot of issues with food borne illnesses with poultry. These chickens come loaded
with salmonella, e coli, and staff (sic). Even if you don’t care about welfare, they’re getting
sick because of the ways they’re raised. And that is something everyone should care about....
How you treat animals reveals your true character.”

Compassion in World Farming videotaped his poultry farm, and from the background
picture one could see a SEA of chickens in this factory barn enclosure with no place for the
chickens to move or go. It made me want to ask people who see nothing wrong with this
picture – how would you like to be in a crowded place with no place to go? And worse yet-
have to smell the urine vapors and fecal droppings. I don’t know how they handle this aspect
of raising chickens but certainly the smells must be horrific for not only humans but for the
chickens as well. And of course, the chickens are not able to walk out into the sunlight and
fresh air. They simply exist until they are sent to horrific slaughtering which finally releases
them from a very cruel life and existence.

People may criticize me for anthropomorphizing, but as far as I am concerned – it is simply
applying the golden rule which should apply to all living beings. And so to answer the
question of that uncaring individual who asked what does it matter to them since we are
going to eat them anyways -it matters a lot to each and every one of those hundreds and
hundreds of chickens crowded in that airless factory barn from hell because their lives
are precious to them as ours are to us.

Watts also remarked that many farmers would also love to speak out against the industry
but are worried about job security. He places 80% of them in this category. But he also notes
that change won’t come until the poultry companies become more transparent and with
farmers being given more control over their farms.

Regarding as to why he had to speak out and go public – he noted that once he had -it was
like having an anvil lifted off his chest. Is he worried about losing a contract? No, he says
because he is lucky that he doesn’t have much debt- unlike a lot of the other chicken farmers.
So, he feels that if he had to fall on the sword to make it better for the rest, so be it.

The very sad part of all of this though is that Watts’ chickens were being raised according to
the USDA’s Process Verified program which meant in theory that they were cage free, fed an
all-vegetarian diet, received no animal by products or antibiotics and are considered humanely
raised. Too bad the USDA doesn’t make visual inspections of places which their policies seem
to condone.

The film revealed heart breaking conditions: deformed chicks, bellies warn raw from contact
with feces-saturated litter, heart and lungs and legs too weak to support the oversized breasts,
and awful leg deformities. There is nothing remotely humane or natural about any of these
observations.

In another report re chicken raising- Maryn McKenna wrote: There’s a lot of flaws in the system.
The consumer’s being hoodwinked. The farmer’s being jerked around.

As for Watts- he said he would like to do some things to make it better for his chickens. He
would get rid of the walls and let in the sunshine and fresh air. Of course, his contract with
Perdue would not allow this. The chickens in the Perdue system never see daylight except when
being transported in and out of the house.

Someone -after studying the process of raising chickens so aptly remarked – “It’s going to have
to be a start-over. We’re past rewind here. This has gone too far.” And what bothers me most
is what an inefficient and uncaring USDA we have. And then ditto too I guess – Congress and
President Obama. If they were more concerned about farm animal suffering then these factory
farms would not exist.

I know that there are some compassionate legislators in Congress. Just today I got a copy of
the HSUS Scoreboard showing how legislators voted on animal welfare bills. You can also find
it on the internet if interested on how your legislators voted.

I am also disappointed that none of the questions posed the presidential candidates are being
queried about their views re factory farms and resulting animal suffering. And so I was very happy
to read this morning on Mother Jones that Tom Philpot also recognized this omission. His post
title read “6 Things I would Ask the Presidential Candidates About Food and Farming.” I let out
a silent hooray. I am not the only one concerned re this lack in presidential screening.

He also so aptly noted that- “Everyone-from the socialist Vermont Jew with the excellent Brooklyn
accent to the xenophobic billionaire reality- TV star—is largely ignoring food and farm policy on
the stump.” Why is that? I can only surmize that there are not enough of us who care enough
to make some noise on this subject. And that’s truly a pity. But I hope I am wrong, and that these
debate leaders will finally ask questions about a topic which should be important to anyone who
believes that farm animals should be treated compassionately.