At 8 p.m. this past Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, a young man found a feather on his deep-fried chicken wing.
As you may have heard, Lubbock currently holds the title of the STD capital of the United States of Amurica, because apparently the kids there like to have unprotected sex. That's fascinating, of course (because, sex), but what's more fascinating to me is that the chicken-wing-feather debacle was apparently such a big deal that it has made my local, North Carolina news-station's website in a post entitled "Lubbock diners discover feather on fast food chicken wing."
At first I thought it was a joke. Then I assumed some editor was desperate for content. I mean, the article came with THREE pictures. Like they needed multi-angle photographic evidence or people would never believe that a piece of chicken they were eating might actually come with (gasp) a chicken feather. But then it occurred to me that it's just possible that folks these days really are shocked that the meat-food they eat is the actual mobility-inducing musculature of actual, once-breathing sentient creatures.
I swore I wasn't gonna mention David Foster Wallace for a while, but I can't help it that the Lubbock Chicken-Feather Catastrophe takes me right back to his essay "Consider the Lobster," in which he goes to the Maine Lobster Festival and, well, considers the lobster. Have you? Considered the lobster, I mean? Do you think about what it means to boil a sentient being to death? Do you think about where your food comes from, at all?
You should totally go read DFW's whole thing, because it's masterful the way he sneaks up on you with his considerations. But since you're probably not going to, I'll just go ahead and ruin it by jumping straight to the bit at the end where he asks the following questions...
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As someone who grew up on a hobby-farm and cared for chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, geese, etc., I've had to work pretty hard over the years to create the sort of Willful Ignorance necessary to mentally divorce the meat-stuff on my plate from the animals that once made use of it. And like DFW, I still sometimes eat meat. I'm not a PETA nutbar, and I understand that no matter what I eat, for me to live is for other living things to die.* I do limit that consumption, though, and am trying to work myself to a place where I am living and eating lightly, gently, and conscientiously across the earth.
I'm older now, and hopefully a bit wiser.
I have no interest in behaving like those Lubbock teenagers who—all fact and education to the contrary—are somehow astonished when they wake up one morning with a really embarrassing rash. Or AIDS.
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*Be a vegetarian or a vegan or whatever. Fine. But know that anybody who cultivates food from the soil on your behalf is going to kill things in order to do it, which makes you complicit. If you're trying to eat your way to some sort of pacifist purity, go ahead and give up now. Not only that, but new research suggests that plants might have some sort of low-level sentience which—even if it's just hippy-dippy nonsense—still strikes me as something worth thinking about when we consider not just lobsters, but food production and consumption in general. As a person of faith, I hold that we're all connected to everything. Laugh that off as nonsense and before you know it, your drinking water's radioactive and you can't eat the fish.