Cheap Eggs and SNAP: A Brutally Honest Admission of Not Caring
March 1, 2012 9 Comments
The Atlantic.com posted a piece a few days ago about how great things are going these days for chickens. It’s a thoughtless, poorly informed article. There’s no real need to read it, but in case you are curious: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/02/the-state-of-the-chicken/253596/.
After posting a comment on the article–essentially an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Texas Observer–I noticed that, among the very few comments made on the piece, one stood out for its brutal honesty. Here it is:
I am sorry to say this, and my point of view may not be popular, but I could not care LESS about what they have to do to the chickens to get them to lay more eggs.
My wife and I were both unemployed for some time, and we were forced to depend upon SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to feed ourselves and our three choldren. I went back to work in December, but it is still a struggle. I would not wish upon an enemy the worry that comes from not knowing if your benefits will last until the end of the month and, if they don’t, you have enough gas money to drive 20 miles round-trip to the food-bank and back, or get the kids to and from school for the rest of the week, but not both.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of nutritionally complete protein that my kids will eat. In all sincerity, if I heard on the news that there was a new way of raising chickens and increasing egg production that would DOUBLE the pain and suffereing endured by the average chicken, and save me $0.50 per dozen eggs, my first reaction would be “Fantastic! That will save me at least $3.50 a month. That’s enough for another gallon of milk!”
I find myself enraged by any legislation that could potentially increase the cost the consumer pays for chicken and eggs, making it more difficult for struggling parents to feed their children. And I find the attitudes of people who laud the benefits of said legislation, willfully ignorant of the way they are placing the welfare of chickens over that of human beings, to be thoughtless, arrogant, and self righteous.
Frustrating as it is to read this response, advocates of veganism should not ignore it. Several points stand out, points that both guide and caution those of us working to negotiate the tempestuous sea of food politics.
First, there remains much to be done when it comes to educating consumers about the abundance of available and affordable plant-based, protein rich foods–something everyone from the USDA to big food companies have done an excellent job of preventing. Peanut butter, anyone? (Oh wait, allergies . . .)
Second, evil can be so depressingly, so maddeningly banal. As I listened to this person–this father of three children no less–actually wishing that chickens could feel more suffering to make his eggs nominally cheaper, I was reminded of Carol Adams’ “absent referent,” noting to myself how effectively the invisible apparatus of production has removed consumers from the living beings that we exploit for food we don’t need. (see The Sexual Politics of Meat)
Third, economics matter. They really, really matter. Cheap animal products and animal products raised humanely are an inherent contradiction. This is something that the author of the original piece, the commenter, and everyone from Slow Food USA to your local sustainable food center will never acknowledge. They blather on as if economics were a form of astrology. The fact of the matter is simple: those who seek sustainable, humanely raised, local animal products are those who will price the underprivileged out of the foodies’ guilt-absolving, albeit false, consumer choices. Needless to say, that’s not very fair. A plant-based diet can, I believe, escape this conundrum.