A viral video unveils the fundamental fallacy under which animal activists operate. There are two sets of rules: One for farm animals and pets, and one for every other animal on Earth.
A young women walks into a trendy San Francisco restaurant and begins delivering a speech to the sparse group of diners inside, coming close to tears as she begins an emotional recital.
"I have a little girl who was abused. She had a terrified look in her eyes," she says.
As you watch the video, the woman, identified as Kelly Atlas, is surrounded by a pack of iPhone-wielding colleagues. For a moment you think, Whoa, if this a demonstration against child abuse, it's a little over the top, given the locale and the message.
(See http://directactioneverywhere.com/welcome, in which Atlas is the tall woman in glasses with a look of hardcore hatred on her face).
But then she continues with her rant.
"She was hurt and abused her entire life because of this establishment and others like it. She was locked away and hidden. She had nobody there for her. She was scared every single moment. She was crying, and when her usefulness was over, they were going to murder her."
By now, you've probably caught on that it's not a girl being discussed. In fact, Ms. Atlas is talking about a chicken she named Snow, which she supposedly rescued from an egg farm when the hen was taken out of production.
On the video, it's plain to see that a number of the diners are amused at her overwrought performance, and Atlas admonishes them, saying, "I can see you laughing, but this is no laughing matter. This is not funny to my little girl!"
No, I imagine it's not, because here's a little secret: Chickens don't have a sense of humor!
(By the way, do you know why commercial layers are removed from production, even though they might still have years of egg-laying capability? Because older hens lay eggs with thinner shells, and no commercial egg producer can take the chance that a thin shell might crack during handling and transport and contaminate the rest of the carton. It's not murder; it's called food safety).
After delivering her theatrical monologue, Atlas is later engaged by an earnest broadcast reporter, who tosses her the go-to softball question in all such pseudo-interviews: "How did it feel to be confronting those people?"
Which elicits yet more drivel about how all animals have rights, and they should be safe and free from fear and provided with all the necessities of a secure, enriching environment.
Hey, where do I get me some of that action?
As mundane as they're muddled
The group with which Atlas and others of her persuasion are connected is called Direct Action Everywhere, and their manifesto is breathtaking: "Every sentient being dog or cat, human or rat deserves the same safety, happiness, and freedom that we ask for ourselves."
Direct Action fancies itself as an avant garde organization, undertaking exciting, revolutionary actions. However, a description of their tactics reveals that they're merely another of the myriad protest groups complaining about whatever aspect of modern life happens to be their raison du jour:
"We will use crime scene tape to cordon off a place of violence against animals (for many activists, this will be the meat section of a grocery store). As activists speak, other protesters will then hold signs and banners with images of a dog, pig, and a human and the question, ‘What if they killed your friend?" Finally, an activist covered in blood will lie under the banner to represent the lives that were lost."
Of course, they use fake stage blood, whereas real men cover themselves in real blood.
The problem with Direct Action and every other animal activist group is that they fall victim to a twisted thought process that fails to grasp the monumental irony in its positioning. If animals have the same status as humans, then by that logic they should behave according to the same standards to which humans are held.
But activists have created a virtual DMZ between human society and Nature. For all their blathering about animals" rich emotional lives and social aspirations, they pretend that wild creatures are separate and distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom including us.
It's okay for a grizzly bear sitting hip deep in a river somewhere to scoop up a salmon on its way to spawn, take a big bite and toss what's left of the still-thrashing fish aside. Then rinse and repeat.
I've seen the videos. A hungry bear can snuff out literally hundreds of fish in a couple hours, leaving a mountain of carcasses for lesser predators and scavengers to consume.
But that's perfectly acceptable according to animal activists, because it's not happening on a ranch or in a hog barn. Even though a farmer can be accused of murder by culling a chicken, a bear can commit mass murder and activists see no contradiction whatsoever.
If chickens can spend their lives crying because no one's there for them, surely the mammals in the wild who get their throats ripped out by predators deserve equal consideration.
Don't hold your breath waiting for an emotional outburst against bears, wolves or coyotes, though.
Because unlike chickens, they're not like us.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator.