It’s Super Bowl Sunday. We all know what that means…
Actually, I don’t. I don’t have much of a tolerance for modern tribalism (let alone hyper-corporate modern tribalism). Nor do I care for football culture. I’ve never watched the Super Bowl. Does the winning team actually get a bowl? I couldn’t tell you much of anything.
Well, one thing I do know about the Super Bowl is that people become hyper gluttons over chicken wings. It’s all over the web, people hawking their ‘best’ chicken wing recipes, dishing on where the best deal is on wings (“per pound”). If you don’t believe me, just google “shortage of chicken wings” and sit back. Headlines said things like “US averts shortage of chicken wings”.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Isn’t “avert” a term we ought to reserve for like, really important things? Say, for example: averting an alien invasion! Or how about averting a global water crisis, or averting climate change?
While all talk of fetishizing animal products gives me the freaks, especially disturbing is the fact that unlike most kinds of meat, ‘chicken wings’ has avoided the almost inevitable dilution-through-euphemism transformation, where humans give a kind of meat a new name to divorce it from the animal (or the part of the animal) it came from. This is the magical process whereby ‘ground meat, blood, fat and organs encased in intestine’ is transformed into the much less horrendous sounding, much more vague– ‘sausage’. But ‘chicken wings’ are just sort of out there, honestly talking about who they belonged to. And people just don’t seem to care.
And that is just wrong. Chickens are such incredible animals. I’ve yet to meet a chicken I didn’t like. The chickens I’ve met at sanctuaries always seem to be in a great mood, just out there genuinely happy to peck around with their sisters, cooing in that way that makes my whole body buzz with happiness. OK, I confess I really, really love chickens. I wrote a whole tribute to them. Here are my favourite things about chickens:
- They experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which indicates that they dream, just like we do.
- Even after periods of separation, chickens recognize each other as individuals, demonstrating their impressive memories. Upon reentry, a chicken who has been separated from her flock is treated like an old friend, not a new member.
- Throughout history, hens have been notably celebrated for their ability (and willingness) to defend their young from predators, which makes it all the more surprising (and innaccurate) that the term ‘chicken’ describes someone who lacks bravery.
Years ago, I was walking downtown on a Sunday morning, and I noticed a pile of chicken wing bones in front of the after-hours Chinese food place where all the drunk students go to get their post-bar binge on. Clearly someone had sat on the curb, ate to their content, and discarded the remnants. And in that moment, that little pile of half-eaten chicken’s wings so perfectly encapsulated what I myself was just beginning to see: that animals are truly seen as discardable, worthless, here to serve us; their body parts, our entitlement for being born human. I thought of how many lives were comprised of the bones in front of me, and it made me so sad and angry that I couldn’t think straight. I had stumbled upon a mass grave. Only it was a mass grave that people were walking past, with absolutely no consideration.
So when I think about the Superbowl, I think instantly about that day. I think about the poor chickens who didn’t make it out, and I think of the chickens who did. My favourite memory of chickens was the day I got to carry newly rescued hens out of the barn to their new outdoor enclosure on Snooters Farm Animal Sanctuary:
As rescued battery hens they had never before seen the outside, let alone sunlight! And yet, within 20 minutes two of them were exploring their new landscape. They were so afraid, but Susan and Brian had built them this new house, and the weather was finally perfect. Goodness me, it was a beautiful day. I dream of that day for all chickens!
Regardless of who wins tonight, the chickens are the ones who lose.