The Real Losers at Wing Bowl: The Chickens

We're not a city of evil sadists, so how did we get this apathetic about suffering?

Chicken |;  Tiger Wings and Things from last year's Wing Bowl | HughE Dillon

Chicken |; Tiger Wings and Things from last year’s Wing Bowl | HughE Dillon

When morals get murky, I like to play a game I call, “What Would the Aliens Say?”

(You could, of course, substitute the more mainstream “What Would Jesus Do,” but only at your own risk. From what I can tell, Jesus was a pretty solid dude, and I have no interest in living a life that pious. Extraterrestrials tend to be more lenient.)

In 1900, this is what the aliens in my head said when they came across a human eating a chicken: “Ah yes, the food chain! Everything seems to be in good working order on Earth.”

In 1990: “Well, it’s kind of weird that people are trusting factory farms to raise their food behind closed doors, but how could they know what was really going on? If they understood the horrific conditions these animals were raised in, they surely wouldn’t purchase them.”

In 2015: “You mean to tell me that humans have sophisticated computers in their fucking pockets and they’re still not asking any questions? Just blindly consuming fellow sentient beings while staring at screens? Fascinating. Invading Earth would be a piece of cake — when does the new iPhone come out?”

At the Wing Bowl: “Holy spaceballs. Abort the invasion. Wipe this savage planet off the map and turn this ship around right now.”

Relax, Philadelphia — I’m not going to say that we should end Wing Bowl. Although Richard Rys made an eloquent, compelling argument against the event’s ingrained misogyny last week, the (perhaps sad) truth is that as a woman I’m simply used to feeling uncomfortable in my own city. I choose not to go to Wing Bowl for the same reason I choose not to go to Old City on Saturday nights — I have a low tolerance for ass grabs and Axe body spray. If this is your deal, go with God, girls.

But you know who doesn’t have a choice? That would be the guests of honor, the chickens.

If I were insufferable, I’d say that Wing Bowl was a “teachable moment.” I like to think that I’m not (most days at least), so let’s call it a unique, home-grown opportunity to examine what degree of suffering — if any — we’re comfortable inflicting upon other creatures.

Most people are comfortable with the idea of eating meat, as it seems to be a natural part of the food chain. Animals eat animals, we are animals, life’s a vampire and ain’t nothing in this world for free — works for me. (When nihilism met animal rights: An apathetic love story.)

Some people are comfortable eating any and all meat available at the grocery store, trusting that the honorable Mr. Perdue and those upstanding FDA regulators would consider the welfare of voiceless animals when tallying up the money and votes. Well, sorry to ruin your day, friends, but factory-farmed chickens lead truly horrific “lives.” (And not for nothing, ya’ll are real good about questioning big business and big government until doing so would mess up your lunch plans.)

Then there are the meat eaters who don’t care at all — even a little bit — about the institutionalized suffering of countless animals because they want very cheap, very plentiful meat at absolutely any cost. So cheap and so plentiful that it can be wasted at food-eating competitions like Wing Bowl.

Does something sound wrong about that paragraph? Of course it does. Not even in Philadelphia would we condone ripping apart the limbs of tortured animals for sport. Not even here would we sign off on the conditions that the billions upon billions of animals we consume each year are forced to endure before slaughter. Nobody actually thinks that is acceptable — but just as problematically, nobody thinks.

If it takes something as extreme as Wing Bowl to make us stop and question the way our food is raised — how we can possibly afford to raise this many chickens and this cheaply — then I say long live Wing Bowl. If this year’s contest starts a conversation about the suffering we routinely inflict on animals every time we choose to purchase cheap and inhumanely raised meat — whether it be at the Wing Bowl or at your smug, hipster-approved “gastropub” — then I’ll put on a Wingette costume and head over to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday.

Educating yourself and caring about the welfare of fellow animals isn’t a liberal thing, or a hippie thing, or a naïve thing. It’s a human thing. Ignorance is only bliss until you’re easy alien prey.

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