KFC teamed up with a well-known YouTuber to showcase the high standards on its flagship chicken farm. Tony, the amiable farm manager showed off the perches and swings for the birds to play on and he scattered fresh straw on the ground. It was all so impressive. “So you really do care about the chickens then.” Niko Omilana trilled.
Of course, once the camera crew had left, things all looked very different.
We can’t help wondering how much someone really cares about animals if they incarcerate them inside filthy overcrowded sheds, readily accept that millions will succumb to the harsh conditions in the first few days of their lives, and then sends the survivors to have their throats cut. Perhaps we just have a different definition of “caring”.
Ah, the old set-‘em-up-knock-‘em-down technique. In the film, Tony, who appears to have dubbed himself The Chicken Whisperer, laughingly denies something that no one has ever accused him of, namely the use of steroids.
If only they had primed Omilana to ask about antibiotics instead of steroids. Then we may have learned something about the chicken industry’s contribution to antibiotic-resistant disease and deaths in people. It’s not quite so funny, after all, is it?
“Why do the chickens have a swing?” asks Omilana which seems like a simple enough question except he isn’t pointing at a swing, he’s pointing at a platform perch. No matter. The birds didn’t get to keep it anyway. When we visited, it had been raised far out of their reach. They did get to keep one small swing, which would have allowed each of the shed’s 50,000 birds one second of fun during their entire lives. But only if they weren’t too lame to climb onto it.
In KFC’s film, Tony told Omilana that the birds have bells to ring as a way to enrich their lives. It was an odd thing to say given that he didn’t show Omilana any bells and there were no signs of any bells when we visited either. If he was just going to make stuff up, he might as well have gone big. “Yeah, we give them Xboxes, table tennis and BMX bikes.”
Omilana seemed genuinely delighted that there were no cages on the farm. No wonder they chose him to front this campaign. He may be the only person in the country who thought – or was happy to pretend that he thought – that chickens who are reared for their meat are caged.
We were fully expecting him to ask: Is it true you send the birds down coal mines during the day? No? Wow, that’s amazing. You really do care, don’t you?
Ah, those happy-go-lucky birds love the freedom of being able to move anywhere they like, so long as it’s within four walls, and they don’t mind that one square metre of the shed looks exactly the same as any other. And so long as they don’t mind forcing their way through 50,000 other birds, which is like going “roaming” in the crush for the January sales.
Besides, from about the age of four weeks, the birds are often lame, too heavy to move easily, and have realised there is nowhere to go. They just sit because there is nothing else for them to do.
Birds love to manipulate their environment. They love to scratch, peck, and nest, so straw is a good thing for them to have. And how lovely of Niko Omilana to roll up his sleeves and help spread another bale of straw over the already straw-rich ground.
We wonder if he hung about after filming to sweep it all back up again and put it back in the bag, because – as sure as eggs is eggs – there was no straw on the floor when we visited. Just squelchy urine-sodden woodchip and faeces.
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