The economics of animal cruelty

Brian Jones
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Occasionally during my morning chore of collecting eggs from the chicken coop, I get greedy.
It occurs to me that if we doubled the number of chickens, we could double the number of eggs.
This urge has no rational explanation. We don’t need more eggs. It is merely a desire to have more.

When I brought the idea up, it was vetoed by Older Boy, who stated categorically that we should not, and would not, have more than six chickens in the coop. He was right, and his veto stood.

We built the coop five years ago, when Older Boy was 12. I supplied brute labour, and he supplied the brains and a bit of extra labour. While I figured out walls, windows and trusses, he read “How to Raise Chickens.”

Careful design

Apparently, healthy chickens should each have eight square feet of space in the coop and in the outdoor “run.”

So, we built the coop, and the run, six feet wide by eight feet long — 48 square feet inside and an equal amount outside, to house six chickens.

We installed four vents for maximum air circulation.

Even though we live in a “heritage area,” we didn’t want to risk complaints from neighbours about the stench of poultry. It worked. You can stand right beside the coop and not smell a thing.

As per Older Boy’s instructions, we covered the run with an old fishing net to keep out wild birds.

We started with two hens and a rooster that we purchased from a local farmer. Older Boy named the hens Chestnut and Lafleur, and the rooster Harry Plum Boy.

Harry was a big, fine-looking bird, with bright red and orange feathers. He was missing a spur on one leg, so if you startled him, he would sometimes give a loud squawk and flop over onto his side.

Long life

They all lived a couple of years longer than we thought they would. When Lafleur died, we buried her beside the garden and put a rock on top, with the epitaph, “Here lies Lafleur. She laid good eggs.”

We’re on our third generation of hens. We don’t name them anymore. They live and lay for a few years, and then one day you find them dead, of no apparent cause.

Whenever seal hunt opponents launch another fundraising stunt, I think about chickens.

Anti-seal-hunt activists have it backwards.

Death does not define cruelty. The level of cruelty we impose on animals should not be judged by how we kill them, but by how we force them to live.

By this standard, factory farming is far crueler than the seal hunt.

Defenders of the seal hunt often point out, correctly, that the slaughter of millions of farm animals in abattoirs is just as messy and violent as the shocking image of red seal blood on white ice.

But to win the argument about the seal hunt, Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) should shift the debate to how animals live rather than how they die.

Seals live wild. Then we — well, some people — kill them.

Compare the lives of seals to the lives of cattle, pigs and chickens. Multiple millions of farm animals are crammed into stalls, pens or cages for most, or all, of their lives. Their lifelong confinement is more cruel than their eventual butchering.

To put this in perspective, a factory farm could put 50 or more hens into our chicken coop.

Consumers are complicit, of course, in the abuse and cruelty of factory farming. We want eggs for $3 a dozen. We want a roasting chicken for $6. We want cheap steak and sausages.

Animal-rights activists pick the easier target and challenge sealers rather than consumers.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be contacted at

Organizations: The Telegram

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Recent comments

  • Ty Savoy
    June 08, 2015 - 10:47

    Animal Rights Activists are involved trying to ban things like the seal hunt, animal use in circuses, fur farming -- because the general public is already so aware of the unneccessariness of the animal exploitation/inhumaneness cruelty involved in these things. What you say is true, in the seal hunt, at least the young seals had a freedom in their lives, until they're brutally killed. Unlike cows/chickens/pigs on factory farms who are cruelly confined for life. The part that's missed here, is that no animal has to die so that we can consume their bodies, or products made from their body parts. None of it is necessary. When people talk about the respect they have for animals, in the way they're raised, and humanely killed, they talk about it with real genuineness, real sincerity. But to say it is somehow respectful to kill someone, is twisting the word respect to an unrecognizable connotation. It most surely is not respectful to kill someone. So that a person can enjoy the flavour of their flesh in their mouths.

  • My Name Here
    January 02, 2014 - 16:35

    Forget the pig, chicken & cow argument. The EU kills 10s of millions of farmed raised animals per year....for fur. It is a billion euro industry. Through out North America the fur industry is worth 100s of millions. Every year in Toronto the North American fur auctions are held. Wild and farmed raised fur is sold. What is galling is that EU fur will be imported and sold in Canada. EU nations will come and buy North American wild fur as well..... The ASPCA just paid the owners of Ringling Bros 10 million US $.due to a RICO case. HSUS are also going through that RICO case and are expected to pay double.......they both got caught paying people to lie about animal cruelty at Ringling.

  • Hypocrisy at its Worse.......
    December 30, 2013 - 17:51

    Kev, no they don't! Like Paul Watson said in an interview with CBC's Barbara Frum in 1970, the seal is the only animal that has the ability to inflame people to the point where they will part with their money for the Animal Welfare collection plate simply because the seal has an omnipresent tear in its eyes that gives it the appearance of it being sad. Please listen to the interview in the address below: The interview is 8 lines below on THESEALFISHERY.COM site. Paul Watson Interview (8 min 43 sec) Description

  • Petertwo
    December 28, 2013 - 06:53

    I disagree, David, the sad part is expecting approval from what are essentially bullies. People here are very sensitive to others,much more so than others are to the people living a real life in rural areas. Maybe if the sealers just get on with sealing, we could support them. Seal is highly nutritious. As for vegetarianism why be prejudiced against killing animals for food, don't veggies have a life too? At least animals are not lying around on store counters slowly dying and rotting. In any event there would never be enough veggies for everyone to have a sound nutritional life with farm lands disappearing to development. The biggest vegetarians on the planet, elephants, are facing extinction through human encroachment into their feeding areas.

    • david
      December 28, 2013 - 15:53

      Okey dokey. You join the others in banging your head against that wall. I said my piece.

  • TaprootCanada
    December 27, 2013 - 18:01

    I think you're missing the larger point of destroying natural wildlife populations versus harming domesticated animals. There are more issues with the seal hunt than just the animal cruelty argument.

  • Robert
    December 27, 2013 - 17:12

    Well written article and I accept the point being made! The weaving of the seal fishery into the article will take some more thinking but it surely attracted those who insist on keeping their blinders tied on tight. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I would defend any opinion offered still there are some who deserve to be challenged! I always get a little itchy when I hear the veggie people chirp; Sir Paul comes to mind! It seems they think they've got global issues resolved. "Eat veggies" save the seal/chicken/livestock they all squawk! But I have to wonder what used to grow in that farmers field and what animal called that woodland home. You see very few of us live in a cave, go around naked and eat rocks. And as such we are part of something that consumes........that is life!

  • yehadut
    December 27, 2013 - 11:37

    This is a strong argument for vegetarianism (at least in the modern world, where meat and eggs are factory farmed). Meat-eaters are all hypocrites, I suppose, for opposing animal cruelty but paying for it at mealtime. But it is certainly no defense of seal hunting, which doesn't just kill but does so in a cruel matter. You can't blame animal rights groups for choosing winnable battles to fight.

    • david
      December 27, 2013 - 15:38

      Those who are too weak-minded to survive deserve their fate.....too bad they aren't satisfied with doing so to just themselves anymore.

    • david
      December 28, 2013 - 10:26

      If by "argument" you mean "organized campaign of manipulation and deceit", then going veg might not be as enlightened a choice as you think....

  • david
    December 27, 2013 - 10:39

    The only thing more sad than the way the seal hunt was allowed to become such an uber-effective, fact-devoid marketing touchstone the world over, is the refusal of Newfoundlanders to face the fact that the war was lost years ago....and THAT really was the 'slaughter'. Rehashing it over and over and over again, using new analogies or metaphors or facts has no purpose. They won. Except for mass extinction of seals by starvation, there's just no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. But spending any more time and money on this is simply insult after injury.

  • Hypocrisy at its Worse. Let us Stop the Hypocrisy!
    December 27, 2013 - 09:23

    It is Hypocrisy at its worse that is being demonstrated annually by those so called Animal Rights Groups. If they were honest people Would They Not be seriously fighting for the lives of the animals harvested in the cruelest manner for the cruelest meats of all 'veal and foie gras' that is eaten by the likes of those rich stars and the front line of the so-called Animal Rights People? The very ones we see as the face of the Campaign are on the receiving end of earning big salaries annually from the collection plates of the campaign that brings in hundreds of Millions of dollars?

    • Kev
      December 28, 2013 - 21:06

      You do realize that the same groups that oppose the seal hunt tend to oppose all hunting and animal farming for human consumption, right?

  • PeterTwo
    December 27, 2013 - 07:58

    I agree, seals have a life, a real life, animals bred for food do not have a life at all, unless they be free range. I've often wondered about the mentality of those early Americans slaughtering the buffalo, nearly to extinction, then bringing in cows for food, with all that healthy meat already there for the taking. Boggles the mind. Watching extreme ferreting on You Tube as they cleared out a rabbit warren before the rabbits took over the farmer's land entirely, legally harvesting excess rabbits for sale. In Europe, the UK and the USA wild hogs in large numbers are taken before they over run the natural forests and farmlands, also being prolific at breeding, and also sold for their meat. The hypocrisy of these various nations where the seal harvest is concerned is utterly ridiculous, in fact downright pathetic in my opinion. Oh yeah, nearly forgot. California culls sea lions because they eat "their" wild pacific salmon and steelhead salmon(used to be trout before being re-classified).