on killing a chicken
i eat meat. i am grateful for the animals giving their lives that i may be nourished. i am also a performance artist that admires the work of Ana Mendieta, may she rest in peace. recently at the Alberta College of Art and Design there was a troubling incident in which a student killed a chicken, in the public cafeteria. the incident polarised the school and city as to what should be done. if the government isn’t going to shut down inhumane living quarters for factory bred chickens, how dare they make any comments on the hand killing of a free range bird (because those factory farms don’t let live birds out of their sites).
for those spectators who were horrified and thought the whole thing was inhumane. that is how chickens get to your supermarket. first you slit the throat and let the animal bleed out, yes it jerks around for a while when this happens, typically a minute but longer sometimes. many cultures still practice animal sacrifice and chickens are a prime target. from reliable descriptions of the piece, the student cut the chicken’s throat, allowed it to bleed, removed the head, and plucked it, all inside the confines of the cafeteria, but away from the food preparation area.
Ana Mendieta was expressing her cuban heritage and ties to voodun culture and female power when she had her chicken killed and stood naked in the classroom/performance space and let it spray its blood all over her body. a visceral experience i am sure for those watching, as poor quality images of the piece can raise the hair on my arms today. this was in 1972. maybe i am just shocked that everyone was so upset. that forty three years later, messages about eros and thanatos and our place in the world are still obscured by politics and ignorance. traditionally body fluids are profane except under certain ritualistic components, then they become sacred. perhaps the same mindfulness in consuming animal proteins is what is lacking, by the factory removal of our food we are disconnected and dishonouring our animals.
apparently part of the impetus of the piece was to spark protest. what is it that we are protesting here? for me i want to protest peoples ignorance about their food and what humans should be eating, because there isn’t just one way to be, and not everyone needs to be a vegetarian, or should. less food going into the gullets but greater nutrition and that’s what free range meat vs. factory farmed meat can give you. meat that is free range is less fatty and less sickly. part of enjoying healthy meat is being connected to how it gets to your table. as Mike Rowe points out in his TED talk, maybe those of us who are disconnected from the acts, shouldn’t make up the rules. maybe the humane societies way of dealing with things isn’t the only way to tackle problems. after all the SPCA was started to kill animals not save them, they had to learn a new paradigm.