Exactly as was a goal, we passed the split in Western Nebraska that decides if you are going to see the northern portion of the West or the southern portion of the West.
|Denver? Cheyenne? Bueller?|
It brought a soothing symmetrical closure to this summer and two summers ago. However it's the rest of Nebraska, east of the split, that has been on my mind since.
One of the first "sights" east of the split is a cattle feedlot. Hundreds of acres hosting thousands of cattle in trampled pens, not a blade of grass or piece of hay or spot of shade on the premises. Front loaders moving piles of literal shit, all a stones throw from the interstate. Do they live there? Where are they headed? What will it be like there? Where did they come from? What was it like there?
How much longer do they have to live like that?
Honestly, I can't say this sight isn't something I haven't seen out my front door. We raised cattle until I was six years old, although far fewer (like 50, not 5,000) on much more humane land, and I swear that one of my oldest memories is of a slaughter-house.
Nor can I say that the morals of feedlots have ever kept me up at night. I'm not vegetarian or vegan. I don't prioritize free-range or grass-fed. I could very well consume one of those very animals and never know it.
But at least these cattle were robust, in the chemically-induced, improperly-over-nourished prime of their short lives. A hundred miles later we passed two chicken transport trucks. Those are the images that I will never get out of my head.
Have you ever seen pictures of those liberated from Auschwitz? It was the chicken equivalent of that. I'm going to guess 5,000, squeezed - there is no other word for it - into two 18-wheel trucks stacked with cages shorter than a chicken is tall, that hold probably 5 chickens each, if they are tossed in and don't expect to want to move after they land. Totally open to the air; all sides of the cages were just chicken wire.
And the kicker? They were all essentially denuded of feathers. Chickens are territorial, and they fight, stripping each other of feathers. Chickens raised in such small confines fight constantly (not to mention break their feathers on the encroaching bars) until 5,000 of them streak down the highway, shivering naked in the wind. Plus, the nutrition to increase their size isn't balanced enough to grow feathers that could withstand that torture.
It's like a woman with brittle nails, hair, and bones trapped in a gladiator pit.
I hope they were headed to a processing plant, because I want the answer to "how much longer do they have to live like that?" to have been as short as possible.
Again, I don't have much of a moral leg to stand on. I haven't really cut down on my chicken consumption. Although it gives me pause to realize that my local Buffalo Wild Wings probably serves those two entire trucks to Bloomington residents on a 60-cent wing night. I don't think I'll ever look at a 12-wing basket the same way again.
That's six lives that I had done nothing for, while I have housed three of these noodles in the last 10 days to keep them from being euthanized at the currently overwhelmed shelter.
|Frank the angry teenager|
|Maxine and Lavosier|
The math isn't fair. In fact, the math is downright cruel, no matter what you don't eat and what you try to save. I realized it before, but I didn't realize it before. Rather than pretty pictures, I took away from Nebraska a dented conscience, a bruised heart, and more evidence that humans are the worst animals on this planet.