A bird they called dinner | Bede Carmody | TEDxCanberra


Translator: Ilze Garda
Reviewer: Jenny Lam-Chowdhury When I tell people
I have an animal sanctuary, many think it is a wildlife sanctuary. Some think it is a dog
and cat rescue center. When I explain
it is called “A Poultry Place,” and is a refuge for chickens,
ducks, and turkeys, many are surprised. To many people, the chicken,
the duck, and the turkey represent food, not an animal you’d give sanctuary to. As a society, we grimace
when we hear about dogs and cats being used as meat in other countries, and [when] we see those images of whales
being hunted down in the ocean to be served up on a plate. At the same time,
we cut into a chicken breast, carve up a turkey, and go out to get some barbequed
Peking duck without a second thought. Most of us don’t consider
the animals we eat in the same class
as the animals we live with. You pet dog, you pet cat – very different to the animals you eat. For most people, their encounters with poultry are
when they’re in the supermarket shopping or when they sit down to dinner. Us, humans, have made
a great art at the disconnect about what it is we actually eat. I’ve always been an animal lover. As a little boy, I used to collect
newspaper articles about animals and I’d watch TV documentaries
about animals. I had lots of pets and I really wanted
to be a vet when I grew up. I never made the connection
between the food I ate and the animals. In fact, I lived
in ignorant bliss for 25 years, before I started
putting two and two together and finding out about
how my food was produced. I think it’s karma in a way
that I know share my life with some of the survivors
of the poultry industries. Before I stopped eating animals,
chicken was my favourite meat. I loved eggs, and I didn’t care
how they were produced. If duck was on the menu,
that’s what I’d order. And turkey was made for a great sandwich. Poultry are the most exploited animals in
Australia and indeed the world, by humans. According to the United Nations
Food and Agricultural Organization, more than 90% of the land-based animals, slaughtered for humans each year, are chickens. And ducks are the next most slaughtered. I don’t know what shocked me more as I began to learn
about the food I loved. That chickens can be kept
in cages to lay eggs, and each only has a space
of A4 piece of paper to live in. That ducks, despite being aquatic birds, are kept in sheds where they don’t have
any water at all to swim in or to properly clean themselves. Or that turkeys are bread to be so big the only way they can reproduce,
is with human assistance, which requires the farm workers
to masturbate the male turkeys to collect their semen
and artificially inseminate the females. That we place such little value in poultry is evident by some of the practices
we allow to happen. The egg industry, for example,
without fear of prosecution can implement pain and suffering
on millions of hens each year by a process known as debeaking. This is a process that involves
sluicing part of their beak, an operation which is done
without anesthetic or pain relief. It is a process which can also be carried out
on turkeys and ducks and has been proven to show
long-term chronic pain in those birds, as well as signs of depression. The defenders of the industry say it’s necessary
because the birds are aggressive. But poultry aren’t naturally aggressive. They only become aggressive
out of frustration, and that frustration comes
from the ways they’re farmed, the confinement systems. Put yourself in their place. What would you do if I told you
that you’re not leaving here today, you’re actually spending
the next 12 months exactly where you are. That’s the amount of space
you’ll have for the next 12 months. I reckon frustration is going to brew. When you realize you can’t
actually outstretch your hands, when you can’t stretch your legs, when you can’t properly clean yourself; and as a reaction, some of us are going
to start lashing out at one another. That’s human nature. Then there’s the other untold story
of the egg industry, and that is what happens
to the male birds. And so, the chickens
that are used for the egg industry, whether it’s the battery system,
the barn system, or the free-range system, are all hatched in hatcheries. After they’re about a day
or so old, they get sexed. The girls are moved out to sheds
where they spend about 4 months before they finally move on
to whatever farm they are going to. Their brothers are thrown
into plastic bags where some of them suffocate
before they are gassed. Or, they could be fed
into a machine called a macerator which will actually grind them up
while they’re still conscious. This is all legal,
and no one bats an eyelid, because, after all,
they are just chickens. Roosters are the most
disrespected of those beings as humans refer to as farm animals. Their lives just don’t matter. Some people think the roosters are
the birds used for the meat industry, they are the ones that people
buy in the supermarkets. But they are not. That’s a completely different bird. It’s a bird called a broiler, and it’s been genetically bred to grow
much quicker than nature intended. And they get slaughtered
when they’re 5 to 7 weeks old. It results in a bird that looks
kind of frankensteinish in appearance: has a big body, really big feet. The turkey industry operates
kind of similarly as well. And one turkey industry expert has
actually said that if a human child grew at the same rate
as a commercial turkey grows, at 18 weeks of age that human child
would weight 227 kilograms. Those of you who might have
chickens in your backyard, or you’ve spent some time with chickens, will know how sociable they can be. Apart from being very sociable animals, studies have shown that chickens
have better cognitive skills than cats, dogs, and some primates. Researchers at Sydney’s
Macquarie University have declared chickens
the most underrated animals on the planet after discovering
their complex communication skills. Chickens have the ability to remember us and their experiences with us. They also have the ability to recognize
up to a 100 individuals in a group by physical characteristics. And, if you think turkeys are silly, that’s just a myth. They actually have
great eyesight, great hearing. Like chickens, they have
very well-developed vocabularies. They can recognize each other
through their voices, and they can actually communicate
their emotions to one another. They do this through this snood which is the fleshy bit that hangs
down from their foreheads, and it actually changes color
according to their emotional state. The girls at A Poultry Place
can sometimes get quite annoying because they’ll come up to me
and get under my feet, and almost trick me over as I’m walking. A lot like your pet dog
or your pet cat can do when they want your attention. I sometimes like to think that’s them trying to thank me
for giving them a good life. And then sometimes,
I actually stop myself and think: “Maybe I should be the one
thanking them for what they’ve given me.” When I first saw my images
of battery hens, I felt empty. Because I identified with those hens
trapped in those cages where they can’t show
any of their natural instincts. And at that time in my life
I felt the same way. But my cage was of my own making. I had allowed society to force me into it,
and by the time I realized I was trapped, I let the strength and courage
to break free for many years. As an animal advocate,
I could be out on the streets telling people
how their eggs are produced and where their meat comes from, but I just couldn’t tell the world
anything about me. It started developing
into this internal conflict. Those were the days when I was trying
to come to terms with my sexuality and seriously contemplating
that ending my life was the best solution. It was my desire to do something on behalf of those hens
that kept me going. Today, I’m an out-and-proud gay man, just as much as I am an unashamed advocate for some of those beings
my fellow humans feel the need to eat. A Poultry Place is
a manifestation of this. It’s a safe haven for some
of the world’s most abused animals. It’s not a farm and if anyone refers to it
as a farm, I quickly correct them. To me the word ‘farm’
evokes the image of a place where non-humans are ultimately exploited. Whereas at A Poultry Place, the residents
are free to live their lives, without the expectation of having
to give something to me back. But the girls and boys at A Poultry Place
give me heaps back: affection, companionship, and they provide
heaps of entertainment. Imagine how you would feel
if you wake up one morning and, all of a sudden,
your whole life had changed, and you could now do the stuff that you’ve always wanted to do,
but was never capable of doing. I get to see that quite often nowadays. The peaking duck
splashing in the pond of water for the first time ever
in his or her life. A battery hen, the first time
she comes out of the cage, the first thing she does
she stretches her wings out. She’s never been able to do that before. She’ll pick up a foot, and she scratches
under a wing; again, first time. With her pathetic stump of the beak
she’ll try to preen herself, but she hasn’t got many feathers to preen
because she’s been kept in that cage. While her feathers
will grow back, her beak won’t. But that doesn’t stop her from picking up straw and making
a nest where she might lay an egg. And when she has finished that,
she goes outside. She scratches in the dirt,
and she creates a hollow in the ground. She gets in, and she dust-bathes;
that’s how she cleans herself. She’s doing all this under the sun,
first time ever in her life. And they are not alone. The big birds
– the broilers and the turkeys – have as much zest for life
despite their size. And, unfortunately, their size
is going to eventually end up with them developing mobility issues
or fatal heart and respiratory conditions. That can’t be stopped,
that’s just the way they’re bred. But they still have a zest for life, they still want to go out and dust-bathe
like their ex-battered hen-friends. But their dustbathe-bathing
behavior is a bit more– well, it’s not as delicate,
put it that way. (Laughter) When they get excited, they do this funny little
run-and-flap-of-the-wing dance to try to hold their balance, as I run across the paddock
to see where they are going. If I am outside playing music, the turkeys will come and join me,
and they’ll sing along. And, thankfully,
they are as appreciative as I am, of 1980’s pop sensation Bucks Fizz. (Laughter) The theme of this year’s
TEDx conference is “Unchartered.” Unchartered is described
as unexplored and unknowing. In the 15 years I’ve been living hands-on
with the rescued and unwanted, I’ve had the great privilege of
introducing many people to live poultry. For most, it’s the first time they’ve met
a chicken, a duck, or a turkey. Everyone goes through
the same experiences. They are surprised
at how social the birds are, they’re surprised at the structures
that exist amongst the flocks. They’re shocked by some
of the physical scars they still carry. Many are surprised
when they are approached by a duck, a chicken,
or a turkey for a hug or a pet. They’re shocked when one of them
is cheeking after jumping to a lap, because that’s the kind
of behavior they expect from the family dog
or the family cat, not a bird they called dinner. For some, it is an eye-opening experience,
for others, a life-changing one. If you’ve never spent
any time with a chicken, I urge you to try to seek
someone out who has some and explore the experience, see where it leads you, go into some unchartered territory, see what happens, because you never know
where it might lead you and what decisions
you might make as a result. Thank you. (Applause)

About the author

Comments

  1. Bede's talk upset some at #TEDxCanberra. Not because he was describing unpleasant practices, but because they thought he presented a view that didn't give enough "balance" to the agricultural industry.

    As licensee of TEDxCanberra, here's my personal view…

    The point of (events like) TEDxCanberra is to present a range of views, even those we don't necessarily agree with. If we only presented things we agreed with, we'd never learn anything new.

    Personally, I enjoy meat, including poultry, and don't intend to stop eating it. But, as a consequence of meeting Bede and hearing his story, I am making an effort to source my meat, especially poultry, more sustainably. That makes it harder to find and more expensive, but that's what comes with thinking about the sources of your food and choosing the best option – ethically, humanely, and sustainably produced food.

    Not every argument has an opposing view that represents "balance"; climate change denial for example, does not represent the balanced opposing view to the overwhelming majority of science.

    There may be a counter to Bede's argument. If so, make yourself known and you'll be considered for TEDxCanberra. If you have a story, if it resonates, we might select you.

  2. Great talk, thanks for helping these abused animals and creating awareness on how abusive the meat industry is…. God bless!

  3. Aren't there already plenty of poultry farms where they advertise chickens, ducks etc that are free range animals and that are not caged? Surely your argument is already being implemented on a large scale across the western world as I watch this video. Good ideas to make sure people know about though if they haven't heard them already. Great talk!

  4. Awesome, thank you Bede Carmody! Your depth and compassion come through like a bright light! Wish more people "got it", thank you for all your work! I saw factory farm footage on nov 10 2013, it and my life changed forever. Vegan (not perfect. ) but dedicated activist.

  5. If you're going to eat animals, don't abuse them.

    They are giving their life for our life.

    But if you're going to eat them, eat the shit out of them, and don't make a big deal about it.

  6. There are 5.5 times more domestic chickens in the world then humans!  Because we've cultivate them; one could argue that chickens are more evolutionarily successful then we are.  If we suddenly disappeared, chickens would have a better chance of thriving then any other creature of that size… lol

  7. We are still omnivores. Respect your food be it meat or vegitation. Eat only what you need but make it truly delicious. We don't need that much protein and most meat processing wastes more resources than what it is necessary. Beware of fanatics on either side of the debate. Eat as your conscience directs but don't let greedy promoters (read – advertisers ) dictate your conscience.

  8. Bravo! This should be shown in all schools as part of educating children to understand just what animals suffer in order to feed us.

  9. But don't you dare mention the cruel and barbaric islamic halal ''killing''…more like a slow form of torture. This is what really sickens me, the fact that these lovies of the left never, EVER, mention ANYTHING at all to do with islam and the horror that it dishes out to women, animals, children, and anyone smart enough to reject it's cruel and barbaric teachings.

  10. "When I thought about ending my life, it was my desire to do something on behalf of those hens that kept me going." I LOVE this statement. Finding your cause and meaning makes life worth living. So much respect for this man!

  11. Humans have been culturally indoctrinated to think that they need to eat dead animal corpses to survive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  12. I think a chicken is food what will happen on November huh will they just eat salad I prefer a turkey instead of salad

  13. You Marxist. This is the propaganda that is used to control and murder a population. It's true the big food corps should be stopped. God gave us animals to eat. There Delicious.

  14. Omg! This is HORRIBLE! Great to know! & love your shirt! We must stop this horror! How wonderful what you are doing! 💕

  15. so happy to hear a topic dedicated on this subject!!!! all animals should have rights as individuals. not as human rights, but as individual's rights to not be killed or tortured

  16. As some others have said: the education system should be more than just tests and grades that don't apply in real life. This stuff is real life and it took me awhile to really learn just how cruel some of these industries can be. = { . .. Well done talk. We can all do better!

  17. the difference between eating a chicken and eating a dog is we first have to feed chickens to the dog to create dog while chickens can live off grains and plant chaff

  18. What an amazing person Bede Carmody is. I truly admire him for the way he cares, and for his courage in telling the world how very awful humans treat their fellow creatures. With people like this, one day there may be changes in the attitudes of people. Animals and yes plants all feel in their own way. We need to come to grips with our giant egos, and realize that we are all a part of nature on this planet and need to respect it, become a part of it. Not dominate, use and abuse it.

  19. Found a copy of THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair which was first published in 1906. What I find most shocking is how much it parallels the more recent FAST FOOD NATION by Eric Schlosser. Man's inhumanity to man and animals driven by greed and protected by the corruption of those who should be preventing it is still doing very well in our time.
    However, Thank you for your efforts and your bravery.💚

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