The chick thing

June 27, 2014

On Facebook, I keep encountering outrage about the fate of poor male baby chicks. The ladies really don’t like it that they’re ground alive, but when asked for alternatives, they never present one. The last time this happened, I got unfriended. So I thought I’d gather all my information in one place, so that I can just link to it. If I’m going to piss people off, I might as well be efficient about it.

First, a disclaimer: we keep chickens. When I was growing up, the Mennonites across from my grandparents had an egg factory. If we wanted to play with them, we had to help them do chores, mostly picking up eggs. And I was distressed by all those chickens in cages, A major reason I raise chickens is so that I can eat eggs without contributing to that. (Note that there are humane arguments to be made for cage culture too, involving sanitation and predation.) So obviously it’s not the case that I don’t give a shit. And we get chicks from the hatchery, and baby chicks are SO CUTE!!!! So I’m not obvious to the emotional impulse either.

So why are baby chicks being ground alive? Because they have to die. Why do they have to die? Because they’re an economic liability.What?? How can that be?

Commercial chicken farming is a bifurcated enterprise. There are two breeds of birds used, one for eggs, one for meat. The meat bird is the Cornish Cross. This is a hybrid of Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens , with other genetics now introduced as well. (The “Cornish game hens” sold in supermarkets are simply immature Cornish Cross broilers.) These birds are very efficient, with a feed conversion ration of 1.91 pounds of feed per pound of live weight (it was 4.7 in 1925). This efficiency can itself be construed as a form of cruelty, because broiler birds grow faster than their bones can support. That’s a discussion for another day. What we need to know about these birds, for this discussion, is that males and females are both efficient (males more so), and both are raised to slaughter weight.

The egg bird is the White Leghorn.  These lay an average of 280 eggs per year. Since it takes an egg about 30 hours to complete its trip down the oviduct, this is pretty much full capacity, about as good as it gets. And this is the side of the chicken bifurcation that leads to problems. Cocks don’t lay eggs. Nor are they necessary for egg production, any more than you ladies need a man in your life in order to have a period.  So the excess cockerels are raised for meat, right?

Uh, no. Leghorns are a light breed. If males are raised for meat, it takes twice as long as a Cornish Cross, much more feed, and the product is a tough scrawny bird that nobody wants to buy.  So they get killed.

Do they have to be killed? It depends on the meaning of “have to”.  It’s possible to grow dual purpose breeds, with acceptable body weight and laying capacity. You’ll get tougher meat and fewer eggs, and both will cost more. But people do that. I do. Most back years growers do. It’s popular among organic producers. If your conscience is worth your money, you’ll buy from them.  But the poor can’t afford a conscience.

So in our efficient industrial poultry system, cockerels have to die. Even at dual-breed hatcheries, this is a problem, even though pullets (girls) cost more. You can often get cockerels cheap in bulk. But nobody wants Leghorn boys. So the question is: how are they to die? The industry standard currently is maceration, i.e., grinding alive.  Now, I want you to think the unthinkable: imagine yourself dropped into a group of close-together high-speed blades. You may feel something unpleasant on impact. After that, between the shredding of your brain and of all nerve pathways leading to it, there’s nowhere for pain to go. Yes, I know, that’s gross. Imagine the alternatives: suffocation , having your neck broken, electrocution. Can you really say that any of these is more humane than the Guillotine of Forty Blades?

Meat is suffering. If you don’t want to be part of that, I fully understand, as long as you give me the same respect.  I’ll disagree with you, because a carnivore’s short gut is the tradeoff evolution has made for our big brains.  But it’s your life and body.

Oh, and the thing that inspired this? This campaign, which implies that the eggs used in Hellman’s have a different cruelty profile than those used in other mayonnaise, or other eggs. I’d love to look at the stock buys of the people behind this.

The obligations of business

January 2, 2012

I got into way too much trouble on Facebook just before Christmas. But the one bit I’m going to discuss here concerns a friend who was highly offended at Hallmark because she was looking for a Christmas card for her son and his partner, and the only gay Christmas card they had was lame. I expressed the opinion that “[identity group] Christmas cards” were a silly idea, and she got offended, and all of her girlfriends with her, and I decided it was best to bow out. But I really need to finish the issue somewhere where I don’t feel I’m trampling somebody’s feelings.

First: she found one gay Christmas card. Would we have seen such a thing in the small town we grew up in, in the ’70s? You’ve come a long way, baby.

Second: what constitutes a gay Christmas card?  A card with a picture of two guys on it, or two women? Do the cards that say “To the both of you” have specifically heterosexual imagery? Most of the ones I’ve seen are pretty lame. Do they say “Horny holidays to you and your partner?” For that matter, where are the heterosexual Christmas cards, and what do they say? Yeah, they’re out there, where they keep all the edgy cards. And they’re generally borderline offensive. And I suspect I’ve seen gay cards with them…but not by Hallmark. Indeed, a Web search confirms that there are a bunch of people doing gay cards.

She was looking for something special, and they had cards for all these other relationships, so why not this one? Well, everyone has parents, and more often than not alive. Most people have children, grandchildren, inlaws and bosses (though fewer of all of them, these days). Indeed, this was for an adult child and his mate. But only about 3% of the population is gay. And how many people would get a member of that 3% a card that celebrates or even acknowledges their gayness?  While yes, families are important at Christmas, what we’re celebrating is the birth of Jesus, not somebody’s sexual orientation.

Let’s look at this from the point of view of Hallmark. The gay market is a niche market. Now, yes, there’s money there. But the bigger the company, the more conservatively they’d have to play. What they could make from the gay market could be dwarfed by a concerted protest against gay cards. And a lot of stores wouldn’t stock them. I’m cool with the idea of buyers having cards that look like them, or the people they’re sending to. Hallmark has the Mahogany collection, but that’s a much bigger market. A search at the Hallmark site under “homosexual, Christmas” got 859 hits, but I wouldn’t call any of them “a gay Christmas card”. (I did several similar searches, with “gay” and “holiday”, with similar results).

What bothers me about this discussion was the implication that a company was somehow obligated to serve a particular market, because members of that market thought it was the right thing to do.  Hallmark is obligated to do nothing except make its stockholders happy, no more than I am obligated to send my gay friends gay Christmas cards…because, you know, they are so much more to me than a positive-ground DNA interface.

Jesus and Facebook agitprop

November 4, 2011

The text for today’s rant is here:



This has been floating around Facebook (“The second most popular word beginning with F and ending with K”). The first time I saw it, I was annoyed by its stupidity. Now, by the third time or so, I’m in full-bore pissed. Bumper-sticker-style non-arguments are bad enough; such arguments involving my Lord are beyond the pale. You should be glad I’m not a Muslim.

Some of the people posting this are Christians, or at least claimed they were the last time I checked in. And using the image of Christ to sell something (like socialism) is a pretty clear 2nd Commandment violation. In this case, it’s literally “taking the Name in vain”, because nobody is going to be persuaded. Really, if you want to sin that flagrantly in public, why don’t you just put up nekkid pictures of yourselves? They’d be more fun, and you wouldn’t embarrass yourself any less.

Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with using the teaching of Jesus in defense of socialism. I know some people of good conscience who make Biblical arguments. They’re wrong, but they’re working from the proper source; we should all be asking “What would Jesus do?” in regard to all human action, which emphatically includes governance. The only problem with that is that it’s theocracy…at least that’s what it’s called when the Right does it. Apparently there’s a difference between enforced charity and enforced chastity that transcends r,s, and t. You don’t get to pick which things are sins; that’s what got us here originally. So if you’re going to argue for wealth redistribution on the basis of Jesus feeding the multitudes, you have to argue for Sunday store closings on the basis of Jesus keeping the Sabbath, if you’re intellectually honest, and not just using Jesus as your personal Ron Popeil.

Only “one of these things is not like the other”; the feeding of the 5000 is not like socialism. Let’s take a look at John 6. In verse 2 we see that “a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.” Now, if these guys actually were the diseased, they wouldn’t have been able to follow him that far, so these guys didn’t start out being there for the bennies; they saw the miracles, and believed, and were there seeking enlightenment. Passover was near (this is of symbolic more than practical import, I think; folks are soon going to have the ultimate Passover sacrifice explained to them). These folks need to eat. And money is not going to solve the problem; it’s way too big for the available funds (sort of like now). There’s a kid with some barley bread and a couple of small fish. His mom probably said, “you aren’t going to go wandering off to check out this prophet guy without packing a lunch.” Now, the passage is unclear about why we know that. Maybe the disciples polled the crowd. Or maybe the kid just came up and said, “My mom always overpacks; I could share this stuff.” Kids do that, a lot more easily than adults sometimes. There’s nothing to suggest they took the kid’s food by force. And surely somebody else must have had some pita or goat jerky or something. But if they did, Jesus wasn’t working with it, which further suggests that this was a voluntary offering, and the others were holding out.

So Jesus multiplies the food thousands of times, so much that there are more leftovers than what He started with. He is producing what He is distributing; it is His, because He is the source of all supply. When people see this, they want to make Him king. Vote for the guy who will give us free food. Now we have something which actually resembles socialism. And Jesus isn’t having it; he heads for the hills. When the crowd finally finds Him, He points out that they’re following Him because He’s a meal ticket, rather for the right reason, which is that He is the Son of God. They’re starting to feel entitled, as the followers of Christ, the folks involved with “the next big thing.” And Jesus proceeds to stop them from thinking with their stomachs, by turning their stomachs, by literally telling them to “eat Me”. And they leave, because the dude is just too weird.

Now, how would this have played out were this actual socialism? They would have collected everyone’s food, even the hidden stash of pita and goat jerky; Rocky and the boys might have to rough people up a little, but they’d get it done. They’d have distributed it “equitably”, meaning that the disciples would get more, since they were the ones doing the actual work of getting food to the people. And even if the Keynesian multiplier effect exists, it doesn’t multiply thousandfold. So everyone would get one bite, and still be hungry. And there wouldn’t be leftovers for the next day, so they’d still be starving.

Now, it’s clear that the 5000 weren’t necessarily grateful or worthy proletarians. They just want the free cheese. Jesus reminds them of the manna (which Israel grumbled about too), and wants them to go to the next level for spiritual nourishment. That’s OK though. We all want the free food, because we sense there was a time when it was always free, and when man did not have to earn bread by the sweat of his brow.  That time will come again, under King Jesus. The folks arguing for socialism now won’t want to participate, because that would be a literal theocracy. That’s fine; God doesn’t force you to go to Heaven, or anywhere else, and you’ll finally be able to escape God’s Grace. But you can’t make Heaven be here, under your terms, because you aren’t God, you can’t repeal the laws of economics, and you can’t produce food by praying… even monks have to work. If you do feel the need to play God, leave my God out of it, ‘mkay?

“nobody in this country who got rich unless he owns”

September 22, 2011

There’s been a bit of a stir about the Elizabeth Warren remarks. I’m not particularly excited, because of course you stand on the shoulders of others; we all do, rich or poor. I don’t think that means that there is a moral obligation to pay whatever “we” think is necessary to establish the society “we” would like (esp. when “we” is not us). And there are some distinct problems in the statement made. “But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” The “social contract” we’ve actually made is to fleece the next kid to come along, to the tune of $1.6 trillion this year alone. And shaking down the rich man (who can at least vote against it, for all the good that would do) will only reduce the fleecing; it won’t stop it.

And this is poignant:

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

Tell that to Henry Juszkiewicz. Who can’t pay what it would take to face certain death protecting his factory from “marauding bands.”


September 20, 2011

Mike Soja explodes the notion that compound interest can eventually give you the ability to buy the world.
This quote is poignant:

[Holden had] concluded that the earth had achieved “a stage of civilization when vested property rights will be unmolested even in the case of conquest.”

We’ve clearly moved away from that state of civilization. Now we’re so civilized that nobody needs to suffer. Except, somehow, they still do. From the same source, in the comments:

From this account, we can see the conceptual problem with trusts: they allow the dead to continue to live. And control wealth. That’s stupid (and potentially mindbogglingly mischievous in effect).

Why is it stupid to “allow the dead to continue to live”? Hasn’t that been the goal of civilization and religion forever? If that’s a problem, why not legislate “70 and out”….where you check into the hospital on your birthday and never check back out? Why should the almost-dead control wealth? Buffet and Soros can go first.

Kinsella buys more of the tripe, but with details:

To try to make his plan conform with legal requirements, Holdeen had named the Unitarian Universalist Church as a beneficiary of charitable trusts, with the understanding that the church would get a tiny portion of the yearly trust income.

While Holdeen was alive, church officials consented to the arrangement. After his death, the church filed suit in Orphans Court seeking all the income. Its lawyers contended that piling up money for 500 or 1,000 years was unreasonable and potentially dangerous.

Given that the U-Us believe in no morality that can’t be rationally argued, or argued out of, that was his first mistake. The second was in thinking that his trusts could replace taxes. Given that the national debt now exceeds the total wealth of the wealthy, there is no limit to government avarice.

The folks at Mises aren’t buying Kinsella much either.

“Tea Party downgrade”

August 9, 2011

OK, Dems, we’ll accept responsibility: something you’ll never do. Yes, the downgrade was “our” fault. Now, I speak of a sort of Platonic ideal Tea Party that existed long before the organized Tea Party movement. But here’s what we were responsible for:
We allowed the imposition of an income tax, and worse, accepted automatic withholding (screw you, Milton Friedman).
We allowed the establishment of a Federal Reserve system.
We permitted the various socialist acts of FDR and LBJ, including Social Security and Medicare, which are the primary drivers of our debt.
We didn’t hold Reagan’s feet to the fire on spending.
We allowed the Bushes to play war.
We allowed the socialist acts of the “compassionate conservative”
We allowed the Republican party to nominate the doddering old RINO McCain.

If the Tea Party had always done its job, John Kerry would never have been elected, and David Axelrod would be selling insurance instead of candidates.

So yes, it’s our fault that the Democrat party exists, and it’s the Democrat’s fault that the debt exists.

The Endarkenment gets physical

March 15, 2011

Our dishwasher gave out a fairly long time ago, and we put off the service call, as Rusty was keeping up with the dishes. But then it started leaking backed-up wastewater on the floor (which turned out to have been a result of Rusty mucking with the hoses under the sink) so we felt we had to. We got a terminal diagnosis. I contemplated a replacement, looked on line, finally went into Sears to see what they had, and for how much. And I decided to forget about it. Now, my parents always had a dishwasher. I’ve had one when I could.It seemed like one of the essential accessories of middle-class life. But I have an issue with spending $400 or so on something that will last only 6 years. The salesman at Sears told me they’re only getting 7-10 out of them, because they’re made more cheaply now. And the new green dishwasher detergent doesn’t work worth crap. So why should I eat $7/mo. plus operating costs, for something that doesn’t operate? This is, I think, the first time I’ve abandoned a technology because politics and politically-distorted market forces have made it useless to me. It’s not an issue of scale, like avoiding a haybine in favor of a scythe, or a bulk milk tank in favor of gallon jugs and mason jars. We dirty enough dishes to make it worthwhile and desirable…if it worked and would last.

And there’s Japan. Practically the first thing I said to Rusty about it was, “Watch the electronic supply chain get screwed.”  It wasn’t quite that, but the Tee Vee this morning was all about Japanese cars and their availability or lack thereof. Most of the plants are here, and as long as they can get parts, they’re OK. But the Prius is made over there, and over there is shut down. Now I’m not going to cry about some liberal douche in Madison WI not being able to get the car he wants. But it’s clear evidence of the fragility of our most advanced technologies. Rusty said she heard that American auto companies were helping their Japanese counterparts, and she said, “Screw that; they should overtake them.” That’s what American companies used to do, you know; somebody would stumble, maybe through no fault of their own, and they’d grab their market share.

Regardless of how the nuclear issue turns out, when the techno-monks of 2100 write the history of the collapse of civilization, the market crash of 2008 and the earthquake of 2011 will be the defining moments. You haven’t seen the last of this disaster, boys and girls, not by a long shot.

PS: This guy gets it.