Is it really humane to prevent animals from suffering fear and pain?

I was horrified to come home from Purple Rose dinner and find a bloody headless carcass of one of my 5 week old 4 pound meat birds.  A red tailed hawk flew away when I arrived.  The chickens were all hiding but when I yelled at the hawk and threw things at the tree it was in, the raptor flew away and the chickens came running out to greet me.  That felt good, but I was still sick to see the big baby Fatty girl there on the ground.  Then I heard some terror sounds.  As a farmer its amazing how you learn the language of the animals.  Even more so- how they learn about the farmer.

Linda found a trembling fatty burrowed back up under the chicken house. He had been pecked and feathers torn off by the hawk, but no injuries to the body. He apparently dived into the water to avoid the hawk as he was very wet.  Linda noticed a tiny nick to the eyeball.  The bird can still see but I’m worried. The good part was how he stopped shaking, stopped chortling in terror when we dug him out and cleaned him up. If he were a duck he would have been more afraid. Ducks think we are just another predator.  Chickens know we are their protectors.  In fact, the Fatty boy was very hungry and ate at my feet, trying to stay close to us when we moved around. Then Linda picked him up and held him and he fell asleep in the crook of her arm.

I believe chickens must live outside and as free as possible.  That’s Antifragile but it doesn’t  fit with humane standards that megafarms and humane groups have come up with.

I do have to try to protect them. The hawk found a way between ropes we had set up ignored both a chrome and plastic owl, which had seemed to work until now.  The “fatties” which is what I call meat birds are able to run, usually dodge and hide. These skills, these thrills and terrors are unknown to factory chickens, who live unchanging, overcrowded lives.    I was heavily criticized when I told people in my poultry class that a hawk had killed a chicken last year.  That’s cruel and awful they said.  Many animal rights radicals seem to be OK with chickens living packed in like sardines, but not being killed by a natural predator.  In fact, two of the five founding principles of livestock animal rights are the opposite of Antifragility.

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour ( I agree with this)
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.  (The freedom itself is impossible, the explanation part makes sense.)
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.  (Freedom from pain?  Isn’t pain needed as part of being alive? Do these people realize how full the life of a chicken can be?  Isn’t there pain in boredom? What about the Depression caged chickens are proven to suffer?  Living outdoors they go from happy to siestas to moments of fear and even terror every day. I call that “life.”  Chickens have dozens of calls to each other when a predator is sighted or attacks. They would likely never speak these interesting and unique chirps, buzzes and screeches in a factory farm. They made another “all clear” call when they saw me.  They rushed out en masse like recess in the 4th grade.  My chickens taste better than any from industry. I believe that’s because of the way they live.  I believe chickens should live full lives from having sex and climbing a tree to crow louder than the next guy to fleeing in terror from a hungry, desperate hawk that has found its way between the defenses.)
  4. Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind. ( I love this one)
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.  (Again this is goofy. See #3. Guaranteeing life in a vacuum is humane?  Isn’t the whole factory farm experience constant stress and mental suffering?)

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