Friday, August 13, 2010

Why did the chicken cross the road?


Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because somebody broke its legs and tied it to the handlebars of a motorcycle on its way to market.

It is not an uncommon sight in Cambodia to see farm animals - chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs - being transported to market in the most cruel and inhumane manners. Live chickens and ducks tied to motorcycles in great feathered bouquets, hanging upside-down by their broken limbs, or crammed sardine-tight into caged trucks, their limbs broken to keep them from fleeing, bodily fluids draining from their gasping mouths as they slowly bake unprotected in the tropical sun. Pigs laid on their backs and strapped perpendicular across the seat of the motorcycle, head and ass ends hanging over the edge, each bump in the road slowly breaking its back, the pig squealing the whole way in terror and pain. Absolutely nothing is done to ease the discomfort of these animals - to cushion them, to hydrate them, to shield them from the elements - nothing.

All this is not done without reason. Refrigeration at the traditional markets, let alone refrigerated transport, is unknown in Cambodia. To get meat to the market fresh so that it is safe for human consumption, it must be delivered live and then butchered only hours, sometimes minutes before being sold as meat. And, for whatever reason, the humane treatment of animals does not seem to figure high (or perhaps even exist) on the list of Cambodian priorities. The only thought that seems to be given is to the ease and efficiency of handling and transport to the market, nothing else.

I have sometimes wondered which system is better, or worse, if either. The western way of factory farms where animals often lead dull, miserable lives trapped in barren little cages or crowded into warehouses from birth to death, but in the end are given a relatively humane, painless death. Or the Cambodian way, where almost every farm animal is free-range and leads a largely unrestrained outdoor life wandering the village and fields, but then suffers its last few days on this Earth in unfathomable horror and pain.

*Photo of motorcycle with chickens, Phnom Penh 08/10
*Photo of Butcher section of the Old Market (Phsar Chas) in Siem Reap, 04/10

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