Fashion, fishin’, & factory farming: Fowl play in the news

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Today it was corndogs. Two days ago it was feathers.  More often than not, something I read in the local morning paper gets my goat. It’s not that I go looking for the dark side, mind you. Whether an article deals with fun, food, or fashion, if the news-maker relies on animal exploitation, I see the backstory no matter how deftly it goes unmentioned. It’s probably like that for you, too. Animal rights folks tend to see the big picture–the one that includes the suffering and the slaughter. Sigh.

First, the corndogs. The headline advises me to “Celebrate corndogs, hoops on national day.” Turns out that National Corndog Day is “the first Saturday in March after the NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicks off.” Factory farming giant Foster Farms is a sponsor (“Foster Farms Corn Dogs are fun-tastic anytime!“). A local bar and restaurant is sponsoring a celebration–proof that if you market it, they will bite.The festivities include an eating contest. What a cackle it would be to show up with this undercover video shot at Foster Farms! Once the PBR starts flowing, though, it’s unlikely that anyone will much care about Foster Farms’ violationsquestionable claims, or the billions of sentient lives spent and snuffed in hopeless and abject misery. Nah, they’ll be scarfing their cornbreaded, mechanically separated chicken franks and havin’ a fun-tastic blast!

Next, the feathers. “Raising hackles,” the headline trumpets in my morning print edition. “Popularity of premium fly-tying feathers causes shortage for anglers.” Understand that I live in A River Runs Through It country, where fly fishing is considered a religion. You know what I mean–tricking a fish to embed a steel hook in her mouth, ripping her from her only known universe, then pretending that you’re locked in a noble sporting match with her as she struggles in terror for her life. Yeah, that’s the spirituality I’m talkin’ about.

Turns out the best feathers for fly tying are also the ones currently popular with trendy fashion followers who like to weave them into their hair. Maybe even Fido’s hair. According to the article,

The problem is that the feathers in question aren’t everyday chicken feathers. The feathers most valued both by fly-tiers and, lately, fashion mavens come from specific types of roosters that are selectively bred to produce long, slender feathers. Such chickens typically take almost a full year to raise before slaughter – unlike meat-birds, which are typically slaughtered after just six weeks of life.

So here we are, fashionistas vs. anglers, duking it out over the sacrificial rooster at the dual altars of fashion and fishing. In their own words, first this, from a fashion blog: “…when done in moderation, its (sic) extremely cute, fun and flirty! Don’t take life so seriously :)”

And this, from the angler perspective: ” ‘For a fly-tier, those necks are really expensive,’ he said, estimating that the most in-demand capes of neck-feathers cost $60-$100. ‘That neck would last a lifetime for someone tying flies…’ ”

And the rooster who once relied on that neck?

Rooster?  What rooster?

7 Responses

  1. Kathleen,

    Very nice rant. I’m right there with you. I can’t watch television without the commercials (KFC!! Red Lobster! Taco Bell!) raising my hackles (pun intended) sky high. The other day I saw one of those sad, neglected/abused pet ASPCA commercials (featuring dogs and cats looking soulfully at the camera while “Always on my mind” plays and a female voice announces statistics on abused/abandoned “pet” animals) and RIGHT after that, a commercial for KFC’s hot wings. Don’t take life so seriously indeed. Especially if it’s not a human one, or one of those few animals that merit being enslaved as “companions”.

    we are not a rational species.

  2. Lorien, the first and only time I saw the ASPCA commercial with Willie Nelson singing that beautiful song, I had a huge bawling meltdown. Then, when I quit sobbing, I felt manipulated–ha! And perhaps that’s the key–our species’ ability to be manipulated into thinking not of the suffering pig, but of the pork chop; not of the defeated chicken, but of the corndog. It can only get worse as the power and wealth of corporations increases.

  3. Kathleen,
    your article rings so true. Once you are aware of what happens to animals, it is impossible to “just” watch an ad or read a newspaper. The cruelty seems to jump out from everywhere.

  4. In response to this blawg (very well written) and the comments it has elicited: “At the moment, our human world is based on the suffering and destruction of many non-humans. To perceive this, and to do something to change it in personal and public ways, is to undergo a change of perception akin to a religious conversion. Nothing can ever be seen quite in the same way again, because once you have admitted to the pain and terror of other species, you will, unless you resist conversion, be always aware of the endless permutations of suffering that support our society.” ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) Scottish poet and playwright, author of the Sherlock Holmes detective novels

    You’ll find this quote in Chapter 11, p. 42, of

  5. P.S. re your brilliant line, “Yeah, that’s the spirituality I’m talkin’ about,” I wish I dared send this to my religious friends who fish-hunt. I don’t know if Bea Elliott ( originated the word “fish-hunt,” but I first saw it in one of her posts or perhaps in a comment she wrote on another blog. Fish-hunt doesn’t sound quite so serene as fishing or angling, does it? At least not for the poor fish.

  6. I really enjoyed this post. The feathers for fashion is quite rediculous. Not many people think about this, so I am glad to see you are putting it out here for people to see. A very interesting post and thank you for that!

  7. Why are animal lovers in a minority?

    Why is it that a few of us are appalled by the so called standard procedures in Factory farming, while a majority of the population just doesn’t care?
    I use every opportunity to speak up about animals to friends, colleagues etc, even show them those horrific undercover investigation videos from PETA and other organizations, but most of them just don’t care. They go back to eating the dead bodies of animals without any remorse.
    Are we animal lovers built differently?
    What is it that makes us different.?
    In this age of information overload, most people are aware of where their food comes from but still such large scale apathy towards millions of suffering animals. We are not a rational species indeed!

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