The Declaration of Independence and . . . chickens?!

John Trumbulls Declaration of Independence

John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence

On July 4, 1776, American citizens made their Declaration of Independence known to the world.  Although the bulk of the document is a catalog of very specific grievances against George III, the document is remembered for its stirring beginning, describing “unalienable” rights inherent in all human beings, as well as describing a government’s role in ensuring those rights:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The enunciation of those core rights — “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — was an almost staggering statement in 1776, when most of the world labored under the rule of despots.

In the 21st century, however, we tend to be rather blase about those same rights.  We can no longer envision a world in which citizens had no say in the government, although their (heavy) taxes supported it; in which people were constrained to work in jobs by government diktat; and in which ultimate power rested in the government, not the people.  Our representative democracy, coupled with the enormous freedoms of our daily lives, seem so natural, as if preordained.  The result of this unthinking acceptance of these rights is that many of us are not even grateful for the blessings they confer, viewing the rights more as burdens, than benefits.

Why do I say this last?  Because more and more people resent the fact that one has to work for the basic freedoms the Founders risked their lives to institute.  Sometimes one has to fight and die for them.  In a life wrapped in comforts (heated and air conditioned homes and cars, endless supplies of food, gadgets for every purpose), we’ve come to the point where we resent even the necessity of working hard and, perhaps, suffering a little to ensure those blessings in our lives.

“But,” I hear you ask, “what about those chickens?  Where do chickens come into this?”

Before any feathers get ruffled, let me explain that the chickens I’m thinking of have nothing to do with cowardice.  Instead, I’m thinking of the way in which chickens are raised in this country — factory farming versus free range (or cage free).

Factory farmed chickens do not live a good chicken life, and this despite the fact (or, perhaps, because of the fact) that all their basic needs are fulfilled.  They are provided with all the food they need, which many might think is a good thing.  They are protected from all dangers during the short chicken lives which, again, many might think is a good thing.  They are doused with antibiotics to ensure their health.  They need not fear any chicken hawks or foxes.  Indeed, so protected are they that their beaks and claws are cut off to make sure they don’t injure either themselves or others.  They even have private housing, one home per bird, if you consider housing decent when it is a teeny cage in which they cannot move.  These chickens exist and are fully cared for, not to fulfill their own chicken destinies, but to enrich the farmer and feed the consumer.

If one were to apply a political-systems label to the factory farmed chickens, one would have to say that they live in a totalitarian state.  While their basic needs are fulfilled (food, shelter and even health care), they have no freedom.  Each of their liberties is constrained for the benefit of the state.  They live, but they live without chicken joy.

Cage free (or free range chickens) live under a very different philosophy.  Although they ultimately benefit the farmer and the consumer (with eggs and chicken flesh), the fact remains that, during their lives, they are allowed to fulfill their real destinies as chickens.  They wander around, they scratch the ground, they flap their wings.  They are fed, but they have to fight with the other chickens for access to the feed.  They have access to shelter but, when the hawk comes, it’s their decision (and ability) to seek it.  They are not stripped of their beaks and claws because they need those to live a chicken life.  The farmer is responsible for protecting them against predators but, given the chicken’s freedom, it’s not always possible.  Their lives are a bit riskier but, for chickens, infinitely more fulfilling.

Applying a political-systems label to the free range chickens is a bit more difficult, because they have freedom but (being chickens) no representation.  Nevertheless, I’d say that their lives are more akin to the type of democracy the Founders envisioned, because they are given the means to live their lives to the fullest extent but, beyond that, they are subject to minimal farmer control.  It is true that they are taxed (the farmer gets their eggs) and that their lives ultimately enrich the state (once they hit the chicken pot), but they are free in chicken terms.

What is so interesting to consider this July 4, half way through the first year of the first (and, one hopes, last) term of President Barack Obama, is what kind of chicken-farmer-in-chief he is turning out to be.  Given his propensity for arugula-eating and Whole Food shopping, one would think that he would want to give the American people at least the same benefits he extends to his free range chickens:  A fairly safe environment within which free range Americans can live their lives as they see fit.

All signs, though, are that President Obama is trying to turn the American people into caged birds.  He wants us neatly boxed up, with the government/farmer dictating every aspect of our lives, right down to ensuring that we are unable to feed, house and defend ourselves without full government/farmer control.  As with caged bird chickens, the American citizen lives to serve the American state not (as the Founders demanded) vice versa.

The whole foodies constantly remind us that this totalitarian regime is bad news for chickens.  I would argue that it’s also bad news for Americans.

So this year, as you go to your fairs, watch your parades, have your barbeques, and delight in fire works, think about what the Declaration of Independence really means, and ask yourself this question:  Do I want my government to give me more rights than the average chicken?  If your answer is yes, spend the next year working hard to effect a change in the 2010 elections, and an Obama ouster in the 2012 elections.

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  • BrianE

    That is a great analogy, BW!

    Taking the analogy one step further, there are types of chickens better suited to egg laying or meat. A particular breed that is very popular for meat is the cornish cross. These birds put on weight so quickly, they often outgrow their ablity to walk.

    Some Americans have become so lazy they resemble cornish cross. These Americans can no longer distinguish between caged and free range, they live only to consume pleasure, whether its insipid entertainment or super sized meals at McDonalds and then die.
    I ran across this story of a farmer trying to breed a stock of cornish cross that could survive the rigors of pasture life:

    …Cornish Cross. I moved them onto pasture at about four weeks, in a netted area along the lines of Andy Lee’s “day ranging model.” They showed the usual Cornish lethargy about foraging; but weight gain was as always impressive, especially in comparison with a group of standard chicks (New Hampshire Reds) hatched by natural mothers in my main flock.

    Then in June we had a spike of hot, humid weather. When I went out one afternoon to check on the birds, I found a number of Cornish—now right at broiler stage—either dead or seriously distressed with heat exhaustion. (I lost 22 of them over the next day or so.) Despite the fact they had been on that pasture more than two weeks, drinking from a float-operated waterer right outside their shade shelter, they sat on their butts inside the shelter and died rather than walk ten feet for a drink of water!

    I turned 180 degrees from the sight of scattered bodies and looked at my young standard chickens—the same age to the day— in a separate netted pasture. They were bright and active, scooting about in the hot afternoon like water bugs. Whenever they felt the need for a drink, they would cross the entire area to the waterer.

    Turning back to the appalling sight of dead and dying birds, my shocked mind wailed: “What is wrong with this picture?!”…

    …The Cornish Cross’s greatest virtue is also its greatest vice: its phenomenal rate of growth. That growth is constantly outstripping all its bodily systems—its internal organs and nervous system as well as its skeletal structure. The inevitable results include not only the well-known leg problems and tendency to heart failure—the digestive system clearly lags behind as well. Look at the droppings: They always contain a fair amount of undigested feed—indeed, sometimes look like nothing more than a wet feed mash. Whatever the statistics about conversion of feed to flesh seem to imply, clearly there is a great deal of waste and inefficiency here. A standard chicken’s droppings, in contrast, are usually firm, gray or greenish with a white coating, and show no trace of undigested feed….

  • Marguerite

    Excellent, excellent! Send this to the President, BW, and maybe the free range chickens will come Home To Roost. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • Mike Devx

    Is there any scientific evidence at all that the mass-production, factory-farm caged chickens find their lives to be a horror? And that the “free-range” chickens find their lives happy and fulfilling? I’m wondering how much anthropomorphism is going on here…

    You’d have to know something about “pleasure centers” in the chicken brain, and levels of neural activity that indicate comfort, stress, etc. And then monitor them to come up with brainscan imagery that proves the point, I suppose. Else, we’re projecting.

    Great article about the Cornish Cross hens in #2, Brian E.

    There’s no way you could produce the very cheaply priced chicken products we get in our grocery stores without factory-farm methods. Efficiency is super-maximized in every possible way. You may avoid those chickens out of fear of their diet, but that diet is carefully calibrated (and includes I believe high-growth hormones and is in a liquid form to ensure perfect consistency for the nutritional goals of the eventual chicken meat product). It would be impossible to provide that kind of feed to free-range chickens – whether you like the methods or not. Sanitation is managed in a similar mass-produce fashion with high tech equipment and sprayers.

    But I have no idea whether the factory farm chickens are miserable or not. If anyone has rational scientific evidence, I genuinely would love to hear it? I’m not comfortable with the anthropomorphic “feelings” about how humans would feel were we subject to the same conditions. Consider the baby lamb that makes the best veal. Horrors – murdering infants so we can masticate their flesh!

    I’d hate to be a chicken being chased around the barnyard by Farmwife Brown so that she can grab me by the neck and strangle me, to put me on a dinner table platter that evening, all roasted and crackling with grease from the oven. Mercy me!

  • Ymarsakar

    Brilliant, Book. Absolutely Brilliant. This should get those Natural Food folks thinking!

  • Charles Martel

    I read a science fiction story once where society had advanced to the point where it could provide an extraordinarily high standard of living to everybody in it—fine food and clothes, beautiful houses, state-of-the-art medical care, long, langorous vacations in tropical paradises—the works.

    The only catch was that able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 50 had to spend one year out of every five working in the vast underground factories that provided all of those goodies. Conditions were hellish—16-hour work days, brutal managers, terrible food, veterinary-level medical care, no recreation or rest to speak of.

    Everybody who went through one of those years of hell emerged from it swearing to take down the system, to work with enraged others to overthrow it and replace it with something far kinder.

    The only problem was that each newly freed citizen soon found himself slipping back into the sweet cocoon of luxury that he had longed for in his year of suffering. The prospect of four years of bliss and pleasure stretched ahead like an eternity. “Let the overthrow wait a bit while I taste a little of this and a lot of that. . .”

    The only reason I bring this up is to point to myself as one of the citizens in that story. It distresses me to think of the stink and clamor of industrial chicken farms versus the idyllic life of a free-range chicken. I must do something about it! Then my wife brings home a package of incredibly plump, astoundingly cheap thighs and drumstricks and I immediately head out, robot-like, to fire up the barby. “Let the reform wait a bit while I taste a little bit of leg and a lot of thigh. . .”

  • Ymarsakar

    Excellent Martel.

  • Right Truth

    Great job. If the chickens were nabbed from the range and suddenly put into the cage, they would squawk to high heaven at the sudden change in their lives and loss of freedom. However, many Americans are having freedoms taken away one at a time, slowly, they don’t feel any suddenness … just like the frog in the pot of water gradually warming. By the time these idiots figure it out, it will be too late.

    Therefore it is left to those who can see what is happening to do everything we can to stop it, save those uninformed in spite of themselves.


    Ahh… Charles, let me whet you appetite a bit more with a little music.

    “Let the reform wait a bit while I taste a little bit of leg and a lot of thigh. . .”

  • Mike Devx

    Mary had a little lamb
    Its flesh was nice and tender
    That’s why when Mary’s now grown up
    She’s always on a bender.

  • ExPreacherMan


    Very thoughtful post.

    Unfortunately you and I, and most of your readers, are Free Range chickens — without much choice now, are wading around in that pool of gradually warming, but way beyond tepid water.

    Soon our goose — er chicken is cooked.

    I posted on our Declaration of Independence and as I read it again, I wept — seeing so many paragraphs that apply to Washington tyranny today (which I excerpted and highlighted).

    Unless something changes soon, our chicken IS cooked.

    Thanks to you and your readers for standing in the gap, Book.

    In Jesus eternally,


  • Mike Devx

    ExPreacherMan #11
    >> I posted on our Declaration of Independence and as I read it again, I wept — seeing so many paragraphs that apply to Washington tyranny today

    You are a true patriot, and a caring one, ExPreacherMan. I wonder if I should be weeping. I may don’t care as much as I ought, to weep. Perhaps for what we have lost, or perhaps for how *we* are lost, hopefully just temporarily. A People can always rediscover true freedom.


    Maybe those GREEN CARDS need a make over in RED, WHITE & BLUE

    NEW YORK – Fireworks lit the night sky above New York with a kaleidoscope of colors shooting 1,000 feet into the air on an Independence Day that began with the Statue of Liberty’s crown opening to the public for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001.

    It was the nation’s biggest fireworks display, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploding Saturday over a mile-and-a-half of the Hudson River, a new vantage point for New York’s festivities. Millions of spectators watched from both sides of the river.

    Among them were Jamalat Bayoumy and his wife, Mosad Mohamad — food vendors who work near the river. They lost an estimated $1,000 in business when police asked them to shut down because of swelling crowds.

    “This is very nice,” Bayoumy said, “but we’re losing money in America.”

    But, his wife added, “America is free. We have green cards and we dream to become Americans.”

  • Al

    Marvelous analogy, BW. What we don’t know will kill us. We used to keep chickens in a large enclosure. They happily scratched and strutted and clucked and gave us great fresh eggs. We never had the heart to eat them. And they would escape the enclosure on a regular basis, despite the fence being buried six inches in the ground and netting on top to keep the hawks out. I discovered that the chickens worked together to allow one or two to escape.
    If they can to it, we will succeed too.

  • Mike Devx

    Al #14,
    > they would escape the enclosure on a regular basis […] I discovered that the chickens worked together to allow one or two to escape.

    Al, I’m interested! Can you describe what they did that allowed one or two to slip out?

    (I’m picturing you opening the door to the enclosure with a pail of feed, when ten chickens leap up and grab you by the shirt sleeve and drag you in. They hold you down, yelling, “Now! Run, Maddie, run! Run for the hills! Don’t look back! Vive la Resistance! No… no… don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Now… RUN!” :-)

  • Charles Martel

    Mike, LOLOL!

  • Marguerite

    Right Truth – Yours is an excellent point. And by being a cheering squad for BHO, our totally compromised national press corps has made it possible for the average citizen/voter to not recognize this suddeness in the way they present, omit, or stage ‘information’. By the average citizen/voter I mean the person who is not as tuned in to issues as the readers of this blog, who just lives his/her life from day to day and decide how to vote in the last month before the election.

    Now, I think that ideally we should be able to live our lives without being so furiously tuned in and aware of and constantly seeing/hearing the President and TOTUS ever before us. It reminds me of 1984 where everyone had to see and be seen seeing and ranting at their flat screens during the hour of hate.

    I just hope that those millions who did vote for this President but who do not share his loathsome animosity toward this country will wake up and realize what they have bought and return it. Unfortunately the pull-date of 2012 is a long way off and the product is already putrifying. We need to work toward 2010.



    I just hope that the 1.6 were not eligible to vote in 2008 and will be screened for mental illness before they become of age to do so. Not only are our elected officials tuned out … the unelected are another threat level to the stability of the nation along with Rev. Al calling for a national day of mourning.

    Who raised this generation of morons. Did they not own a calendar and realize there is a tomorrow with or without their participation. Heaven help us if this is the future of ACORN registered voters.

    LOS ANGELES – The more than 1.6 million fans who registered for tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial service will learn Sunday whether they are among the lucky few to win tickets for the Tuesday ceremony.

    Fans registered for free at the Staples Center Web site for the random drawing of only 8,750 names. Each person selected will receive two tickets and will be notified by e-mail after 11 a.m. PDT Sunday, according to a Staples Center news release.

  • Marguerite

    Sadie – Bread and circuses keep the rabble fat, dumb, and happy. Nothing new there! I guess there is a downside to such economic success as a nation that even our poor have been educated to feel entitled to have cars, TVs, houses, video stuff at the expense of others. It hides the true poverty within. What happened to renting an apartment until you saved the down payment for a house? And the satisfaction that comes with that accomplishment? When did that become unfair? Probably around the time when it became unfair to have games where kids could win or lose – they just all get ribbons for participating. This year in our deep, deep, blue city we awarded the summer pageant crown to one of several high school contestants who now don’t even give speeches or compete in any way. We just celebrated our national independence, yet not one of our founders could ever be elected today. Sorry for the gripey message – I almost tossed it, but figure BW’s readers can take it.

  • David Foster

    “To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law — a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”

    –Walter Miller, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”

    Pretty sure I’ve quoted this here before, but it often seems appropriate these days…

  • Marguerite

    David Foster – Maybe for Caesar, but minimal suffering and maximum security were not the proper ends of society as envisioned by America’s founders. That is, however, where we are headed. As seen by the left, no one in any preferred identity group should ever have to suffer the consequence of poor decisions. And those who have made wise choices, or ‘were lucky in life’s lottery’ are the ones commandeered by a tyrannical hand to finance the remaking of society ‘from the bottom up.’

  • Al

    Mike, # 15
    I almost think they could have done what you fantasize. The escaping chickens were very frustrating only partly because we have dogs. Merlyn has had chicken for lunch twice. And after you remove the chicken from the dog’s mouth, you’ve got to run after the blasted chicken. On a warm Summer evening, I took a chair back to the chicken enclosure with a long drink and just sat and waited. As night fell, five of the hens assembled in a line at the base of the wire enclosure wall. The enclosure was roughly 20 by 40 feet in two 20 by 20 sections, with a wire wall dividing the two sections and a door in the divider. The entire enclosure was covered with netting to keep the hawks out. The hens assembled at the base of the dividing wall. In unison, they began flapping their wings. The sound was rather startling. With the force of their wings and the strength of their legs, the hens ran rapidly up the wall and forced the netting up to allow one of the hens to hop out on top of the netting on the neighboring enclosure. It was the most amazing example of coordinated activity among animals I have ever seen. After I secured the netting to the dividing wall, we had no more escaping chickens.
    Sadly, the chickens are no more. Despite the fact that our lot, and most of the lots in our area were an acre and a half when we bought the place 22 years ago, the area is not zoned for farm animals. An unidentified neighbor rated us out to the Zoning Board.
    But the chickens provided an good education in life for our kids as they grew, and for me as well.



    Great story.
    Your unidentified neighbor was probably a card-carrying member of PETA.

  • Mike Devx

    Al #22,
    Thank you, that is an awesome, amazing tale. It sure looks like genuine coordination and cooperation to me, too. Among chickens! Who-da-thunk-it?

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