Friday, August 03, 2007


Sorry for the pathetic lack of food lately. My camera batteries have been dead, and I kept forgetting to charge them. Deliciosity will be coming soon, I swear!

But first! You may recall my post about the Human Battery Cage. It was only, like, a week and a half ago. I mentioned this article in the Townsville Bulletin, which was printed along with this photo (though the photos from this article were much better):
If you'll notice, I'm the only one smiling in the picture. A few of the others look like, maybe, they were holding them back or something. The photographer took skillions of pictures when she came down, and she chose the one in which I'm smiling and no one else is.

Well, apparently this was not okay with some people. I haven't been following the newspaper, but yesterday (8 days after the original story ran) I flicked it open and saw my name in the Letters to the Editor section! There were two letters from people supporting the chooks, me and the Human Battery Cage. From the sounds of their letter, someone wrote about how stupid the Battery Cage was, and used my smile in the photo as his argument.

I can't seem to find that letter online, or the two letters in support of me. I had to buy a paper yesterday just to re-read the two nice letters! But, I've written a response, and hopefully the Bully will print it. Even better, hopefully someone will send me a copy of this cranky guy's letter.

**UPDATE** Here is the original response:

Protester’s Mixed Message

July 31

I REFER to the photo in today's Bully (25/7) of the anti-battery hen campaigners who caged themselves to highlight the plight of battery hens.

There were six of them crouched in cages and five of them looked somewhat cramped and forlorn.

However, Theresa P***** (a JCU student) had a smile on her face. This would indicate to me that if she were a battery hen, she didn't seem to be too uncomfortable being in the cage.

Was it poor acting on her part? Or, had she just performed one of those reliable and timeless 'fart jokes'.

Not withstanding that, it did start me wondering ... how do you tell if a hen is happy or not? Due to the structure of their beak, which is hooked downwards, they appear unable to smile.

Perhaps, even unable to laugh. Which, may be the reason you never see a chicken in the audience at a comedy festival.

Perhaps Theresa got it right and her expression was portraying how some hens feel ... on the inside.

That's got to be worth a few thousand government grant dollars to investigate. By the way, my award for the best looking `sad hen' went to Drew Fryer. He could quite believably have been a battery hen in a past life.

Rolando T******,

And the three responses that have followed:

Missing Point of Protest

August 2

THE arrogance of Rolando T****** just took my breath away. His comments on the article about the battery hens just totally missed the point. Battery hens are kept in tiny cramped cages 24/7, and it is cruel. How is it possible to get the message across without getting stupid, infantile comments? Just because hens (and other animals for that matter) don't speak our language, does not mean they can't feel pain pain and misery, and by buying standard eggs you are simply prolonging and continuing this cruel and inhumane practice.
Joanne B******,

Mockery Unjustified

August 2

IT was with great disappointment that I read Rolando T******'s response to the battery cage activists.
In what was probably a fleeting moment as a way of bringing some light to an otherwise miserable situation, Theresa P***** did the unthinkable -- she smiled.
This was all it took for Mr T****** to fuel his letter that served only to justify the ongoing suffering of caged animals.
The painfully obvious difference between the humans involved in the campaign and the animals they are representing, is that the latter spend their entire lives in these cages, with standing room only.
I cannot respect the opinion of anyone who has not experienced that long-term.
What the activists did was a noble attempt to reduce suffering to those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Matt T*****,

No Battery Hen is Happy

August 3

ROLAND T****** (TB 31/7/07) asks how do you tell if a battery hen is happy? The simple answer is they aren't because they are crammed into a cage so small that they cannot stretch their wings, let alone walk, or peck and scratch at the ground.
One only has to watch a happy free range hen enjoying a scratch and a nice dust bath to realise that the 10.5 million battery-caged hens in Australia are all unhappy hens. There are humane alternatives to the battery cage system in the form of barn and free-range housing systems. The European Union has agreed to ban battery cages by 2012. Perhaps with an election approaching now would be a good time to ask local candidates what their party's policy is on such issues.
Jennifer B****,

I'm really glad that three letters have been printed in opposition to battery cages. Townsvilleans, I never knew you had it in ya! I'm happy to live here now!

Here's my response:

I haven’t seen the letter written by Rolando T****** in response to the Human Battery Cage. I’ve only seen the further responses by Joanne B****** and Matt T*****, and I would like to thank them for their support. Because I’m basing my response on such limited information, though, I may be missing a few points.

It seems as if Mr. T****** took offence with my smile in the photograph. That the photographer caught me with a smile on my face is not surprising—I smile quite often, and that day was no exception. Throughout the day, all the cage-sitters were smiling, laughing, and chatting.

Maybe Mr. T***** is upset that I broke the (false) stereotype that activists (of all sorts) are too serious, have no sense of humour, and never have fun. Or maybe he’s upset that the Human Battery Cage made him think about his diet, and he wasn’t comfortable with that.

Although the Human Battery Cage was meant to illustrate the plight of battery hens, it obviously could not realistically depict the conditions in battery cages. We humans were able to laugh, talk, stretch, and do other normal things.

Battery hens are so restricted that they can’t even stretch out their wings. They can’t do the things that hens normally do, like scratching the ground for bugs, or roosting. When egg-production decreases, it’s common practice to starve the hens for up to a week to force moulting, which starts a new egg-laying cycle. They are often crippled from standing on the wire cage floor, and their feathers are patchy and sparse. The hens are kept in such stressful conditions that they would peck each other to death—if their beak tips hadn’t been painfully burnt off at a young age, that is. At the end of their short lives—only 12 months for some, 2 or 3 years for others, vastly shorter than a normal chicken’s life-span—they’re slaughtered and used for food, or simply ground up and used as fertiliser.

Needless to say, the Human Battery Cage couldn’t adequately show these conditions. What we could do was provide a visual display that sparked conversations with passers-by. If we’d been stoic and unsmiling all day, I think we would have been much less approachable.

I know that my diet doesn’t support the cruel practice of battery farming, and the Human Battery Cage changed a few people’s minds when it came to Townsville, and for those reasons I’m able to smile.

Luckily, I just finished reading In Defense of Animals,edited by Peter Singer, which has a chapter on the media, and using the Letters section of newspapers for outreach. Hopefully someone reads my letter and thinks about their food choices a little.

PS, Mr. T******: there was only one fart joke that day, and it wasn't made by me!


Vegetation said...

Sounds like that man felt threatened, needed something to pick on and all he could come up with was you. Pretty sad really.

I agree. If no one has a smile on their face everyone is just going to walk right on by and steer clear of the sour faced activists.

And good on you for writing in to put him in his place!

Vegetation said...

Hmmm I have words I use for people like that bloke in my head but they are far too rude to display on here (plus then I'd just be lowering myself to his level of communication). Ugh, jerks like him should have to go and live in battery cages for a week or 2....real sized one's! Thanks for the update notice!!

Finally I don't think it's unfortunate that you smiled. I think it's just fine!

Emmie said...

What an incredibly silly response by that man. I love the responses he got, sometimes people amaze you!

RV Amy said...

Your response is great. If your smile brought wider attention to what a battery cage is, you've done an extra service to the animal rights movement!

one and only hypnos said...

A good action of you people against battery hens.

I'm afraid those kind of responses are typical. Who of us has not been laughed at or ridiculed because we take the fate of animals seriously? It's sad.

Vivacious Vegan said...

Your letter was awesome! I do hope that they publish it. I think it's so wonderful that others also wrote in against his insensitive comment.