What else are they good for?

I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately, so posting has really dropped off a cliff. But, every now and then I see something where I think: ‘that really deserves being written about.’ So, given that ’tis the season for sitting around a table and enjoying a good bit of turkey carcass stuffed to its decapitated head with breadcrumbs, I thought I’d spread some festive cheer.

So some backwater local radio show based in Oxfordshire (Jack FM) is running a jolly little Christmas competition called ‘Cook it or Keep it,’ whereby listeners vote on whether or not two turkeys should be slaughtered live on air, to be later eaten by said listeners at a Christmas dinner.  It’s kind of like a messed-up version of The Weakest Link.

So obviously this has stirred up a bit of a commotion, with ITV news labeling it as a ‘controversy’ and the RSPCA chiming in, saying that it “does not see the entertainment value in killing an animal for this purpose.” Absolutely not, and it’s a pretty sick idea. What is more sickening is the way that the radio station’s breakfast presenter Trevor Marshall is defending it. ITV news quote him saying:

“The majority of people in the UK eat meat. If they have a problem with this then they’re hypocrites and should be opting for the nut roast.” Now I fully agree with this – if you’re willing to support the mass slaughtering of animals year-round by buying meat, eggs and dairy then you don’t really have a foot to stand on (luckily for you this is in the metaphorical sense). However things take a turn for the worst when he begins defending the stunt further:

“There is nothing better [speak for yourself there Trevor] than one of these free range [that doesn’t mean a thing] birds who have literally spent their lives running through orchards [so?]. We keep saying we should make an effort to know where our food has come from – well I know where these have come from, let’s man up [eating meat is not a sign of masculinity, nor is it exclusive to men], be honest [as in: these birds honestly don’t want to be killed for your entertainment kind of honest?] and eat these turkeys – what else are they good for?”

Oh dear Trevor. That last bit is a real Christmas-cracker. Other than the arrogant suggestion that animals (the ones we choose at least, it’s a good life for dogs and cats) are good for nothing but entertainment or eating, it highlights just how flippant and desensitised people have become about why animals are on this planet. “They’re just silly little birds that go gobble-gobble-gobble all day long. They deserve to be eaten!” Not only do people think that they deserve to be eaten, but also they are so disconnected from those who we share our planet – who are, like us, highly intelligent beings – that they don’t bat an eyelid when killing becomes entertainment. Ring in any historical bells?

Even the RSPCA, bless their well-meaning hearts, come across hypocritical when reminding Trevor that “it is an offense to cause – or permit – avoidable pain, excitement or suffering to any animal.” Well, isn’t that the entire meat and dairy industry in a nutshell right there? We humans are good at making exceptions when it comes to things we enjoy.

Why has this happened? Because people continue to believe the fallacies that are ‘free range,’ ‘grass fed,’ and ‘organic.’ These are all meat industry buzzwords that poor old Trevor here has swallowed up like a force-fed duck, fit to explode with industry-standard lies. And to be fair to him, it’s not his fault – it’s the fault of the government food agencies for allowing these terms to saturate the market, making people feel as though they’re somehow doing the animal a favour by making sure they’ve lead a nice life before being killed. But then, when have governments ever been compassionate?

The truth is that, unless you are keeping these birds yourself in your back garden (as, for example, my mum does for eggs) there is no such thing as ‘free range’ in the mass market. Many organic and free-range farms cram thousands of animals together in sheds or mud-filled lots to increase profits, just as factory farms do, and the animals often suffer through the same mutilations—such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—that occur on factory farms. The only advantage that organic products have is that they do not contain antibiotics, hormones, or an arsenic-based additive (as many non-organic chicken products do).

I’ve already had a discussion about this radio competition with a friend on Facebook and was faced with the argument that “if we didn’t rear them, I doubt they would exist.” Well, sticking with the example of the turkey, that alone is native to the Americas. Where do you think they would be happier – living in the wild or being raised for slaughter? Whether they’re raised in good conditions or not, raising animals with a predetermined date and method of death is simply wrong.

Let’s flip this around for a second. Would you say the say the same about cats and dogs? “If we didn’t rear them, they wouldn’t exist.” Would you then feel comfortable killing, cooking and eating Rover and Mr. Tiddles? I’m going to guess not, and that, people, is what is known as speciesism. You may laugh at the term, but it’s undeniably true – we (in the West) chose which animals are fit for companions and which animals are fit for a life of pain and misery. The assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their race, sex, or religion is the root of most problems across the world. So tell me why it’s overlooked for animals?

So, this Christmas, spare a thought for that turkey carcass on your dining room table…


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