A few years ago, I made friends with a Rhode Island Red named Koko. I had an ailing horse, and Koko was a resident at the same barn as my mare. Koko was a particularly well-socialized hen, and lonely because her brood-mates had all been carried off by a fox. I would sit in the door to my horse’s stall for hours, and Koko would take dust baths right next to me, let me pet her, and once brazenly climbed up my mother’s leg to request a sweet potato chip.
I’m not a vegetarian, but I lost my taste for conventional chicken and eggs. I know some of the stories about the meat industry are exaggerations (e.g. the explanation for Kentucky Fried Chicken’s name change to KFC). But I’ve seen first-hand that laying hens live out their lives in tiny, overcrowded cages – in effect treated as egg-production machines. Thinking of Koko – that sweet, social, quirky little bird – locked into a cage all her life makes my stomach turn.
I have to really talk myself into choosing the more expensive fair trade chocolate over the cheaper standard stuff. But all I have to do is think of my avian friend, and it comes naturally to choose the veggie dish over the chicken parm or the $4.50 free-range eggs over the $2.00 conventional. I guess that’s what comes of making it personal! (Maybe next I should visit a cocoa plantation…)