Shame or Celebration

“The shame of our eating becomes clearer when we consider the chicken nuggets that millions of children like to eat. To be placed on a kid’s menu this food item has to be cheap. To make it cheap the chicken producer has to be paid the smallest amount possible. To raise chickens most efficiently, the producer has to find ways to get more chickens into his or her barns and then get them to butcher weight as quickly as possible. To do that it is best to genetically alter chickens so that their breasts become huge (Americans crave white meat) really fast.

Today’s engineered, confined chicken reaches full size in nearly half the time when compared to traditional breeds. The enlarged breasts of these birds become so burdensome that many chickens’ legs break under their own crushing weight. It is also important that their diets be supplemented by antibiotics because crammed chicken houses are breeding grounds for disease. It isn’t important that chickens have room to roam, because their breasts are so large that walking is difficult. It also makes it easier for them to be caught by the poorly paid (often undocumented) migrant workers who cram them into the cages that will deliver them to a slaughterhouse where they will be disassembled on a factory line.

Very little, if anything, in this process honors or treats these chickens as gifts of God. Industrial methods of chicken production require that they fall within a business logos or logic and production system that stresses efficiency, uniformity and profitability. If we had the mind of Christ, however, we would have to be thinking about what we can do to make sure that our relationships with chickens contribute to their nurture, health and even delight. Why? Because if Christ is the eternal Logos, the one through whom and for whom the whole world is created (Col. 1:16), and if God’s good news has been “proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (1:23), then chickens no less than people are part of his renewing ministry that leads all creatures into the fullness of life. Inspired and shaped by Christ’s reconciling life, we must concern ourselves with the well-being of animals, endeavoring to make sure that they are enabled to live the life God intends for them. When we treat chickens the way God expects, which means that we devote ourselves to their care, shame disappears to make room for celebration.”

Norman Wirzba

Love Wins

2 comments on “Shame or Celebration

  1. shoreacres says:

    I knew the fresh & organic chicken breasts I get from the local meat market were both smaller and more expensive than the large packaged breasts at the grocery store. I understood the “more expensive” part of the equation, however dimly. Now and then, when those grocery store breasts are on sale, I pick them up anyway because – well, because they’re so big. It seems like a bargain. Dollar-wise, I suppose so. Otherwise, not so much. More learning going on here.

    As for Wirzba’s theological underpinning, I thought about this paragraph I wrote in one of my favorite Christmas posts:

    We don’t sing, “Joy to human beings, joy to those who walk upright and drive cars and open too many credit card accounts and are nasty to their neighbors.” The joy we sing is meant for the whole world, for stars and dirt, mountains and seas, trees, rocks, valleys and hills and every creature who inhabits them all. While we prepare our hearts, heaven and nature sing out the truth. Gifts of the season are meant for all, and we need to love our world enough to include it in our celebration.”


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