I'm just going to say it. Some PETA folks are just, well, outright nutty.
Either that or very clever marketing people with an agenda, take your pick.
The call of Lauren Cervantes, a Turlock resident and member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to erect a stone memorial to chickens who died in an August 5 Highway 99 accident takes the cake. She recently sought county approval to erect a five-foot-tall monument to read: "In Memory of the chickens who suffered and died at this spot. Try vegan. PETA."
According to Cervantes, the PETA-funded memorial "would cut down on future accidents and make the roads safer for everyone, humans and other animals alike, by reminding tractor-trailer drivers of their responsibility to drive safely and conscientiously as they transport thousands of living beings to their deaths every day."
I've never heard of anyone promoting a sign - which distracts drivers' eyes from the road where they belong - as a way to enhance safety. I also wasn't aware that the driver of the truck, Mayra Alejandre, 23, of Turlock, intentionally meant to crash the truck and kill thousands of chickens he was hauling. I'm leaning towards the belief that it was an accident. If we thought a sign would wipe out all future accidents, we would all be clamoring for them too. But the day there is no accident in the world is the day we have world peace and no more death. Not gonna happen, folks.
But alas, that's not the goal. PETA's goal is to get all of us people from eating animals. Period.
Cervantes states in her letter to the county that the memorial "would also let everyone who uses the roads know that the best way to prevent such tragedies is to reduce the number of animals who are sent to their deaths by going vegan, because chickens shouldn't ever have to spend their lives on filthy factory farms or endure a terrifying trip to the slaughterhouse."
Make no mistake - this isn't a memorial to dead chickens but a large unsightly morbid ad on public right-of-way to combat the sale of chickens as a fundamental source of protein for human beings.
What does PETA expect, memorials for all the chickens which ever died to fill a taco, sandwich, salad or stir fry? Something tells me that if they had their way, anyone eating chicken would be guilty of murder.
This is nonsense. Caltrans has dominion over freeways and their rights of way, not the county. If the state were to approve this - and I think there is little chance of that - then the approver should be laughed right out of this agricultural state; especially since I've never seen a state-sanctioned memorial to any crash that has taken the life of a human. I didn't see anyone propose building a memorial to the poor souls who died and were maimed when the northbound Highway 99 bus drifted off the road and was split in two by the Hammatt Avenue sign south of Livingston.
We're really living in some odd times. Our whole country was built of pioneer stock who cleared the forests for farms and roads, built homes made of logs they cut down without a power chain saw, milked the cows they fed, cut or twisted the heads off chickens, killed the fattened calf and plucked vegetables, which they planted and watered, and cooked them for sustenance over a fire which they had to start without so much as a BBQ lighter. But it's 2016 and we have a bunch of urban city-slickers who think they will recalibrate societal standards. So they clamor for men to use women's restrooms and vice-versa; or justify shooting police officers because some suspect (who happened to be black) was shot doing something stupid or illegal; or attempt to change the eating habits of humans who for thousands of years have enjoyed eating beef, chicken, turkey, deer, buffalo or whatever. It makes me wonder what kind of country my grandkids will grow up in and frankly it scares.
"Chickens shouldn't ever have to spend their lives on filthy factory farms," she says. I am not sure where she has been all her life but for centuries it has been natural for chickens - or any animal for that matter - to tread upon dirt and straw and walk in their own feces with no discomfort whatsoever. Pardon my crassness but animals and crap go together. There are not too many animals smart enough to use a toilet.
Mrs. Cervantes may be terrified to think of a trip to the slaughterhouse but she's thinking with the mind of a human. We're on a higher order. But I can assure her that animals have no idea when they enter a slaughterhouse that death is coming. It reminds me of Gary Larson's Far Side cartoon of a cattle slaughterhouse yard. One cow in the front is cutting in line ahead of a long line of other cows waiting to enter the execution chamber with one cow in back yelling, "Hey, no fair!" Exactly. Cows have no idea why they are entering a slaughterhouse.
With a chicken's brain about the size of a man's thumb, I'm not too sure the chickens in the Turlock accident realized much suffering. I'm sure animals feel pain just as a baby boy feels pain during a circumcision but is the animal cognizant like we are? Animals can't understand a diagnosis of cancer and spend months fretting about it. When chickens are placed on a Foster Farms transport, they have no idea where they're headed whether it's to another ranch or to the slaughterhouse.
Cervantes obviously hasn't heard about Mike the Headless Chicken. On Sept. 10, 1945 a farmer in Fruita, Colo., cut the head off of a chicken - yes to eat him - when the head slipped off while leaving the brain stem attached. Mike lived for 18 months and made the rounds of the freak show. Lloyd Olsen fed his headless chicken by giving him ground-up corn and water through an eye dropper. Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk around clumsily. He attempted to preen, peck for food, and crow, though with limited success; his "crowing" consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat. I bring up Mike because, in effect, he wasn't panicking over losing his head. So is a chicken so sophisticated that they have a concept of doom.
If you want to know Mike's eventual fate, well, he finally croaked when he was accidently fed too much food at one time and choked to death on March 17, 1947.
Now to write this column I did watch a video of an assembly line killing and processing plant and I must admit it seems gruesome but I've never found any being's death to be a pretty sight. It's unpleasant to watch the natural cycle of a lion chasing down a gazelle on the Serengeti and killing it by clamping down on its windpipe until it can't breathe, all in order to feed another species. That is the unpleasant order of things on planet earth.
I worked on a Foster Farms chicken ranch for a year and half. I never had any qualms about taking the eggs the hens were laying on because I know humans love to eat eggs (so do chickens when you drop them). I tend to place people on a higher order than animals. If it's the animals or us, the animal is going. The hens instinctually defended their eggs with pecks to the back of my hand while others let me freely take them. They just laid another one the next day.
Permit me to introduce a little orthodox Christianity in the mix: After God created Adam and Eve, he told them to exercise "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." You'll find that in Genesis.
Initially, according to Genesis 1:29-30, God instructed humans to live strictly on "every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed," and land animals were to have lived on "every green herb." After the fall of man, when death entered the world, so did flesh eating. During the great flood of Noah, people were permitted by God to eat the flesh of animals.
While I advocate eating chicken - and may increase my intake in honor of our misguided PETA friends - I don't advocate mistreating animals. I hate to see dogs chained up in small yards and left out in freezing temperatures. I also cringed at word that approximately 45,000 hens were found in deplorable conditions at A&L Poultry at 9501 S. Carpenter Road near Turlock and left for dead. About 20,000 died without food or water and another 25,000 were euthanized. Obviously that's wrong and the perpetrators, Lien Diep and Andy Cheung, went to trial for animal cruelty. But obviously I don't think it's "cruel" to slaughter an animal for someone to eat. The execution should be done swiftly and humanely as possible. No one wants to see an animal suffer.
If we can perfect the art of assembly line killings, so be it. I would hope the death is quick and simple.
Maybe I was a bit harsh in the beginning called PETA people nutty. I think their stand is nutty but I get where their hearts are. They don't want animals to suffer.
But lighten up, PETA folks. You're allowed to eat only vegetables but realize that doesn't justify you trying to fight the rest of us who also like a little chicken (or beef or turkey) to go with our meal.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org