• Becci Pigeon

The little victims of Easter

Updated: Jan 20

by Becci Pigeon Picture this: you are in the supermarket and you head over to the butcher counter to pick up some lamb. Expecting you’ll pop a neatly wrapped pack of meat into your basket, you are startled when instead, you find the counter crowded with a dozen small lambs. The butcher smiles.

‘In the mood for some Easter lamb?’ she asks, handing you a knife. ‘Here you go. They’re 4 to 7 months old, industry standard. We pride ourselves on only selling the freshest meat available.’

You balk, and she must notice, because she adds, ‘It’s fine! These are the lucky ones. About a fifth of these little guys just die before they make it to market anyway–exposure or disease, that kind of thing. But the ones we’ve got here even made it through the tail-docking and castration, even without anesthesia. Not bad!’ She gestures at a lamb, who sniffs her hand curiously. ‘If you like, I can take this one in the back and stun her first. It’s very simple, and it works…well, sometimes. I’ll just put a pair of electrical tongs on either side of her skull and–‘

‘Thanks but no thanks,’ you say, shaking your head. That won’t do, and you kinda feel as if you’ve lost your appetite for lamb anyway.

Perhaps some eggs, though. The kids always want to dye eggs for Easter and you could go for a scramble, and there certainly won’t be any unsettling surprises there. You walk into the egg aisle, only to find it filled with blenders. Weird. The store must have moved the sections around again; it’s so frustrating when they do that. You turn and are starting to walk away when you hear a soft, insistent noise, almost like…peeping. Turning back, you take a closer look at the blenders and realise there’s something moving about inside them.

An employee approaches you. ‘It’s part of our commitment to help people feel more connected to their food,’ he says. ‘Most people don’t realise that male chicks aren’t all that useful to the egg industry, so they’re usually just gassed or ground up alive. We can’t use gas safely here in the store and we don’t have any big industrial macerators to grind them up like the farms do, but we figured this was the next best thing.’

He leads you to a shelf and places your hand over the control panel on the blender. You can see the chicks wriggling around inside now, peeping constantly. ‘It’s already plugged in. All you gotta do is push the button.’

‘Doesn’t it…hurt them?’ you ask.

The employee shrugs. ‘Yeah, I mean…probably. It’s pretty quick, though, I guess, and business is business. People want their eggs. Especially this time of year. You know what they say: if you want to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs.’ He chuckles to himself. ‘Well, or grind up a few chicks, I guess.’

You shake your head, pulling your hand away. ‘It doesn’t matter. I only buy free range eggs anyway.’

‘Suit yourself. The eggs all come from the same places, though. It’s the same system. They even still debeak the hens, and they’re all just crammed into a big warehouse instead of individual cages, like 16,000 at a time. Most of them never even make it outside. Imagine that: all you gotta do is put a tiny, hen-sized opening to the outdoors at the end of that big shed, and it’s suddenly “free range”. So the crowding, the debeaking, the male chicks…all the same. I don’t know. To me, it all seems like an expensive con. Your choice, though.’

‘Wait, what? They debeak them? And on the packages they always show the hens wandering around outside, and–‘

‘Like I said,’ he grins. ‘It’s a con.’

‘Okay, fine,’ you respond. ‘Organic, then. Where are they?’

He sighs and gestures at the blenders. ‘You still gotta push the button.’

‘Those can’t be the only options. I don’t want to support this kind of thing.’

‘Well, sorry, but that’s it.’ He’s clearly a little frustrated. ‘I mean, I guess you could stop eating eggs…but who’s going to do that?’

You look again at the rows of blenders. The chicks continue to peep helplessly within, just babies like the lambs on the meat counter, and you take a deep breath. ‘I will.’

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