Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 28 July 2002 Issue
Barbecued Kitten Value Menu/Where unspeakable pet abuse meets the reconstituted liquid Chicken McNugget. Can you reconcile?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Let's say I were to look out my window right this very moment and see a very unpleasant and probably quite hideous personage kicking his whimpering dog or smashing the head of her mewling kitten with a brick or yanking the wings off a pretty chirping bird. Let's just say.
I would of course want what most anyone with any sense of heart or soul or indignation would want at that moment: for the abusive slug-bait of a person to be immediately gored by God's own rusty butter knife and then strung up by their tonsils and made to listen to Celine Dion techno remixes on infinite loop while slowly being eaten alive by rabid fire ants. And then I'd want them tortured.
But let's say I look out that very same window and witness the neighbors casually slicing the throat of a live chicken for dinner or maybe conking out the family pig for bacon and chops. I would of course cringe and turn away and contemplate the meanings of life and death and vegetarianism, until the smell of the barbecue hit and I'd begin to wish they'd invite me over for chicken kebabs and free-range pork chops and organic salad and wine.
This is a moral problem. This is the odd dilemma, a strange conundrum illumined by way of the handful of pained and pleading emails I invariably receive whenever I run a particularly appalling pet-abuse story in my very skewed Morning Fix newsletter.
Take Monday's heart-wrencher about the live kitten being barbecued for fun
by some knuckle-dragging troglodytes on the courtyard grill in some podunk
Missouri town, a good dozen bystanders standing by and grunting and
snickering and saying 'meow meow' as Charles C. Benoit, 24, of Liberty,
MO, pokes the charred animal with a stick and laughs.
Let the spitting hellfires of demonic pain and excruciating genital warts rain down upon their pathetic souls for all eternity, absolutely. But there's a snag.
It strikes me as incredibly odd and telling that, while a rabid level of outrage at this event is understandable and right, the same type of response is virtually nonexistent when it comes to other innocent animals.
When it comes to, say, equally faultless and often terribly cute little fuzzy creatures tortured and abused and chemically injected and slaughtered by the millions in massive reeking rural factories so bloody and industrialized and stygian they only build them in horribly depressing remote rural towns with names that sound like kidney polyps.
In a way, the kitten story points up just how bizarrely divorced we have become from our food sources in this culture, and hence, unlike the starved dogs or roasted kittens appearing like painful reminders in the news, we have no true emotional connection to the animals that provide us meat and cheese and protein-injected taco filling. It's simply a different set of mental equations and justifications.
So when we hear of enormous stainless steel vats of pureed pulverized reconstituted chemically blasted chicken organs molded into a billion McNuggets, or of brutally factory-farmed poultry or hormone-injected beef-fed beef, and then see that nice bag of frozen Foster Farms chicken parts at Safeway, there is no connection. We feel nothing. It makes no kitten-like impact. And it's by design.
We are purposefully kept far from the source. We are simply not allowed to witness or care about -- much less partake in -- exactly what happens to our heavily processed foods, the absolutely ghastly mechanized horrors of, say, the average industrialized chicken farm, the slaughterhouse, the meat packing plant.
Places where untold thousands of, say, cute fluffy chirping yellow puffball baby chicks have their beaks sawed off and their feet chopped off by machines every day, before being hurled like spinning dazed cotton balls down a huge steel funnel into impossibly cramped pens where they are injected and force-fed and speed-grown before being slaughtered en masse six weeks later to become KFC Extra Krispy. Yum.
It is heartless mechanized abuse on a staggering scale. It is a million barbecued kittens a year to feed our massive gluttonous craving for crispy reconstituted McNuggets and genetically modified hamburger meat. Ask any FDA meat inspector. Vegetarians, all.
The kitten response highlights just how detached we have become, and the amazing dichotomy of our emotional connections; because if we knew, firsthand, just what happens to our innocent gentle fluffy non-free-range animals in those very farms, we'd never stand for it.
We would begin to care, to realize the casual mass-hypocrisy of our cultural equivocations, maybe begin to respond with some bbq kitten-type outrage. And the meat industry simply cannot stand for that.
Please pay no heed, they say, and enjoy your routinely tortured heavily processed cancer-causing 15-percent-actual-meat product as you rage, rage against the dying of the kitten. There there now. Isn't that tasty?
Thoughts for the author? Email him.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed thrice-weekly email column and newsletter. Subscribe at www.sfgate.com/newsletters/
Copyright 2002 SF Gate
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