Chickens not humans

There’s an article in the Townsville Bulletin today guilty of the same fallacy that Pamela Anderson’s PETA protest committed. It is never “humane” to eat another being. If, as I suggest, the word humane means to treat compassionately or to treat as human. Historically the word was used as an equivalent to “human”.

The soldiers in the story were given live chickens to turn into food – without instructions for how to appropriately end their feathery lives. They are in trouble for allegedly treating the chickens inhumanely.

“A Defence spokeswoman denied claims the chickens had been treated inhumanely.”

Well. They ate the chickens. Regardless of how they treated the chickens beforehand I’d say that’s a pretty long bow to draw. You can’t have your chicken, and eat it too. That is to say – it’s one or the other. Either chickens are a food source and killing them is killing them – or chickens are to be venerated like cows in India.

To use the word “humane” in the context of things we’re eating is kind of stupid.
To start with chickens aren’t human. I know that the current definition of “humane” is to show human qualities of kindness and compassion… I still think that’s wrong. How can you eat something compassionately? You’re ultimately saying “my life is worth more than yours” – and if, like me, you regularly eat meat, you’re saying “my life is worth hundreds or thousands of you” (and more if you eat lots of eggs).

Sure, you can kill them gently. But that’s still killing them to eat.

Thus ends my rant.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the pastor of City South Presbyterian Church, a church in Brisbane, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus. If you'd like to support his writing financially you can do that by giving to his church.

17 thoughts on “Chickens not humans”

  1. Sigh at you.

    Humane according to my dictionary means having or showing compassion or benevolence.

    Prolonging suffering is cruelty, so if you are going to kill something to eat it you should do it in a way that causes minimum pain. So if they stuffed it up and a chicken was running around half dead because they couldn't kill it quickly, I can see why there would be complaints.

    And second that – chicken eggs are not fertilized so that isn't killing anything.

  2. I'm with you.

    Unsure, though, about your egg comment.

    "and if, like me, you regularly eat meat, you’re saying “my life is worth hundreds or thousands of you” (and more if you eat lots of eggs)."

    Don't get it. There are no chickens in the eggs. They're not fertilized.

  3. I think your humane/death link just doesn't work. You can treat an animal humanely by putting it down if it is seriously injured. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    1. Amy,

      Did you even read the etymology of humane link included before commenting.

      I know what the dictionary currently says…

  4. Language is a changing feast – I don't know that you can hold it to a definition it had originally (my original had it as meaning 'behaving in a manner befitting a civilised person).

    You know that I won't agree with you on this issue.

    I don't have any problem with treating an animal with similar consideration to how I would a human, because animals feel pain and when we took responsibility for them (ie, when we started farming them, not hunting) I feel we took on the responsibility to treat them in a moral way. A good steward does not abuse. Unnecessary cruelty is an abuse of our power over them.

    1. I don't think I'm disagreeing with this point. I even make reference to it.

      I'm suggesting there's nothing "humane" about eating something. Ever.

      You can't possibly compassionately eat something. You can't treat
      something you eat in a "humane" manner unless you're also a cannibal,
      living with other cannibals, living in the understanding that other
      cannibals may eat you at any time.

      If our "humaneity"(sic) is tied up in our "do to others" type ability
      to act with compassion – then it follows that we can not "humanely"
      eat something. The action is inhumane. And thus. We do not treat
      animals "humanely" when we show compassion. We treat them with
      compassion. Then we eat them.

  5. Amy, it does if you would eat yourself and have others eat you.

    I humanly eat my Special K in the morning. But I savagely devour the banana cut up on top.

  6. Lol. You guys are funny. You both put forward definitions that are different and then argue based on your own definition. Mostly people argue first then work out that there definitions are different.
    Anyway. I like your point Nathan considerate not humane. Brilliant. But I agree with Amy that under her definition it could fit just fine. But I suppose you could still apply the ‘treat others etc’ logic. How would you like to be killed if you were going to be…

  7. Nathan and I just like to argue.

    Anyway: Tim! Bad husband! 1) You have to agree with me without question and 2) you spelt 'their' wrong! :)

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