Dear Readers,

The city, you will be glad to know, has bravely stuck a blow for chickens’ rights. The council passed a resolution Oct. 9th “Opposing the Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens in Battery Cages.”

In the immortal words of the recently departed Anna Russell, “I’m not making this up, you know!”

The resolution was introduced by Ward Three councilmember Bruce Williams, and had unanimous support from the council and mayor, as well as the half-a-dozen citizens who commented on the resolution. Your Gilbert noted with interest how this group of animal rights activists differs from the usual middle aged, middle-spread Takoma Park activists we are used to seeing at council meetings. This group was young, clean-cut, and vegan-gaunt.

Takoma Park is home to a relatively large population of animal rights activists, Gilbert understands. So perhaps this resolution is a sop to them. Certainly there are no (legal) chicken farms in Takoma Park. The resolution has no teeth anyway. It does not ban the sale of eggs from “battery-cage” chicken farms for instance. The Mayor said she would send a (non-binding) letter to the one supermarket in Takoma Park bringing the issue to the manager’s attention. Councilmember Joy Austin-Lane suggested the same letter could be sent to the few convenience stores in town.

As toothless as it is, the resolution was praised by the citizen supporters as a milestone. Your Gilbert suspects the milestone is primarily in the activists’ resumes.

This is all well and good, being in tradition of many non-binding, feel-good council resolutions that voice the majority’s progressive/liberal principles. But, the potential for embarassement is a bit larger than usual. Your Gilbert, for instance, found it grueling to write the above paragraphs WITHOUT MAKING ONE CHICKEN PUN. Others, especially those whose stock in trade is lampooning iiberals, will not be as restrained.

– Gilbert.

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

13 Comments on "Chicken!"

  1. Foghorn Leghorn | October 22, 2006 at 1:28 am |

    Gilbert, How long have you lived here? Takoma Park’s most honored citizen was a rooster, the only resident to have been memorialized by a statue!

  2. There’s nothing liberal or conservative about opposing animal cruelty. Treating farm animals with common decency is a non-partisan issue that has the backing of everyone from Dennis Kucinich and Robert Byrd to Pat Buchanan and Matthew Scully (President Bush’s former speechwriter). The Takoma Park City Council deserves praise for giving animals on factory farms a voice and shining light on the abuse they too-often endure.

  3. Katie Carrus | October 23, 2006 at 4:14 pm |

    Any reasonable person who opposes animal cruelty ought to support this bill — it is a modest step to expose the routine and unnecessary abuse 300 million egg-laying hens suffer ever year in the United States. I applaud the Council for its leadership on this important issue.

  4. I’m proud to be a resident of Takoma Park knowing that my elected officials take animal cruelty seriously. Whether they’re dogs, cats, or hens, animals don’t deserve to be confined in a cage that’s too small for them even to extend their limbs. It’s a matter of compassion and mercy. The Takoma Park City Council should be applauded for opposing the caging of hens in the egg industry.

  5. You don’t have to be a liberal or an activist to know that animal abuse is animal abuse – whether the victims are dogs, cats, pigs, chickens or horses. Governments taking a stand against all types of animal cruelty should be applauded. All too often, our leaders condemn individual acts of cruelty directed to certain animals like pets while ignoring the institutionalized cruelty that billions of animals on factory farms are forced to suffer. My friends, family and I consider ourselves to be conservative politically, and all of us support the city council’s resolution against the animal cruelty happening on factory farms.

  6. Steve Russell | October 23, 2006 at 4:42 pm |

    Hi Gilbert;
    I would like to make some comments as a Takoma Park citizen who was actually at the council meeting.
    I am neither young nor gaunt. I do not work for an animal rights organization. I make my living as a professional software engineer.
    I testified at the council meeting on behalf of the resolution. I’ve read research that seems to indicate that these animals may be as complex as the dogs and cats many in Takoma Park love.
    The City Council is made up of mostly meat eaters, just like you. In fact the Mayor told me she grew up on a farm that raised chickens. I don’t think you can paint these people into the stereotype of being granola eating vegans.
    The Mayor told me that she was behind this resolution, despite having grown up on farm that raised chickens, because she felt that contemporary chicken production has crossed too many lines in terms of needless cruelty.
    New ideas, particularly ones in regards to ethics are often met with ridicule instead of honest investigation and consideration.
    Did you read the reasons for the resolution and did you consider them with an open mind before you decided that the resolution was ridiculous?
    I am glad that I live in a city where the government is brave enough to consider and stand by new ideas, unthreatened by the ridicule of journalists.
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    – Mahatma Gandhi

    Yours sincerely
    Steve Russell

  7. Dear Readers,
    Yep, those animal rights activists are organised! All the comments above, save the one from Brother Leghorn, flooded in within minutes of each other. Paul Shapiro works for the Humane Society of the United States and was the principle citizen commentator on (possibly the author of) the resolution. If this is a taste of the pressure the council was subjected to, we can see why they whipped up the resolution and passed it unanimously. Anything to stop the onslaught!
    What is it about animals that inspires such fierce advocacy? If tenants were cute ‘n furry or feathered Takoma Park would be a rent-free zone!
    – Gilbert

  8. Noelle Callahan | October 23, 2006 at 5:38 pm |

    I believe the purpose of the resolution is to help inform the public of the cruel and inhumane treatment that battery-cage hens endure. The public can then make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to support animal cruelty.

  9. The quick answer to your question, Gilbert, is that animals inspire advocacy because, unlike tenants, they are not able to advocate for themselves.
    Please note that the Washington Post covered this issue in a serious manner, confining their pun to the headline:
    I encourage you to learn about the miserable conditions that most egg-laying hens suffer in for their entire lives. Assuming that you oppose cruelty to animals, with a little thought you might come to take this issue seriously yourself.

  10. I did want to add that Takoma Park is not the only place which considers supporting sustainable agriculture a necessary cause.
    Recently AOL [those granola, non-corporate internet providers] made it a mandate that cagefree eggs would only be used in their corporate offices, and there are a number of other corporations and institutions which are in the process of making this change in their relations with their vendors.
    Does animal rights propose to make you stop eating meat? Not necessarily….I was also raised on a chicken farm and believe me, farms today look nothing like they did in the 20th century. Agriculture is big business, but it does not have to be non-sustainable.
    That is what I felt the message was from the City Council. I applaud their support and am sorry that you feel cruelty is acceptable, no matter what form it comes in.

  11. Just to add to the comments that I, too, am very glad to see this action taken by the City Council. I am a Takoma Park resident, meat-eater and not involved with what some call “animal-activism”. Any time you deal with factory farming, you deal with the mind-set that animals are nothing but money-making products of the factories. I see nothing crazy or far out to want to handle these sentient beings that feel pain, as humanely as possible. I work with a number of pretty conservative “old fashioned” folks and they brought the Post article to my attention. They, like I’m sure many, were unaware of how chickens are being kept and said they would start looking for cage-free eggs to purchase. Boy, that really makes Takoma Park a laughing stock doesn’t it.

  12. Animal cruelty is no laughing matter. I spent 3 years as an animal control officer on the streets of D.C. — rescuing sick, injured, neglected, abused, and homeless animals. Some of these cases clearly violated animal protection laws and resulted in prosecution. There are virtually no laws protecting farmed animals, however. And as appalling as many of the cases I handled at the shelter were, nothing I ever saw could possibly compare to the suffering and misery endured by animals on factory farms—particularly egg-laying hens who spend nearly their entire lives crammed inside tiny wire cages. As a Takoma Park resident, I am proud that the leaders of my community are willing to speak out against such cruelty.

  13. Auntie Corvid | January 2, 2007 at 7:21 am |

    This nation is suffering at its very roots from severe domination complexes that come out in a lot of ways. Human violence against other humans is certainly one example.
    Yet everything that humans do to each other, we do a billionfold against animals, who are unable to advocate for themselves, speak out, defend themselves, or do anything other than cry in pain and terror.
    I am sickened by this entire thing and after 40 years as an historian and teacher have concluded that humans have systematically taught each other these behaviors, using the agricultures as the template.
    In the agricultures, beings do not count as anything other than production units, exploited to give “owners” some benefit, advantage, or profit.
    It isn’t just factory farms that do this. I watch as ostensibly “liberal” and “sustainable” and “organic” types own small chicken flocks, with all the ideology and smugness in place…and then proceed to allow some birds to pick on others (“What can we do? They’re just being birds!”), or kill a crowing or assertive rooster (“What can we do? He scares my chillllldrunnnn!”)
    I watch as these people systematically teach their children that people come first, always, and that the little ones live and die at our behest.
    It is a seductive philosophy. It has governed human culture for many thousands of years. But it has been systematized, and turned into a religion “authorized by god” (go forth, multiply, have dominion) by the agricultures.
    As for me and mine, we spend all our time caring for abused, neglected, injured birds. This has been my calling since childhood. I have learned more about compassion, unconditional love, tolerance, patience, and respect from some of these beings than from any human I have ever heard, known, or read about.
    I have also learned very hard lessons about how I too was educated to think I came first, and often did very wrong things. This was even though I was raised in very ancient indigenous (Suomi) traditions, to believe that all creatures, all beings, even inanimate ones, are our equals, and that no amount of rationalization or denial will ever erase the anguish of knowing that I sustain my life by systematically, routinely killing.
    As I age, I find I don’t need to “get out of” that guilt, or purchase indulgences for it. I sit with it. It is horribly anguishing. I feel it is my little slice of hell, my commission for all the suffering caused by things like agriculture.
    Each time I hear of a municipality whose leaders awaken to this, and strive to be more evolved people, I give thanks to the cosmos. My sister is an animal control officer, and I frequently find myself ministering to her, helping her cope with what she sees in her life. She wanted to be a vet when a kid, but couldn’t imagine having to hurt an animal to help it. Today she spends much of her time whispering, murmuring, and singing to small beings as she kills them out of mercy.
    May the gods have only such mercy on us as we show other beings. And when we violate that golden rule, may they chasten us with all their might. As a species we have opted out of evolution, choosing instead to use technology. I sense a great chastening coming, and perhaps already underway.
    The most vile words ever spoken:
    Go forth and multiply.
    No. Stay home. Be content with what you have. And use this brief brief life to learn from all these teachers around us, just how amazing a gift this life is…for all species.
    auntie corvid

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