Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chickens Versus Children

I just read (in an article on Grist titled "Has the world reached peak chicken?") a report that a Northern California animal sanctuary, Animal Place, just spent $50,000 to airlift 1,150 elderly laying hens from Hayward, California, to a sanctuary in Elmira, New York. They chartered a private jet, an Embraer 120 turboprop, to do so. The entire cost of the operation? $50,000.

If you do the math, that's more than $43 per chicken.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love chickens as much as the next guy. (Okay, there's a joke in there somewhere ... "I love chickens ... they taste just like chicken.") Seriously, I've raised (cage-free) chickens, and even ventured out in the darkness of night (with a spotlight and a 12-gauge shotgun) to protect them from maurauding raccoons.

And, I don't doubt that what Animal Place says on its website is true ... that it saved these "elderly hens" from certain death.

Well, at least from imminent death. I guess death is still certain even for the 1,150 hens it airlifted across the country at a cost of more than $43 per bird.

Here's where I think Animal Place has gone afowl. If you took that $43 per chicken and applied it instead to the very real needs of very real HUMAN children who are struggling to survive (and starting out in life, unlike the chickens, who are already on the downhill slope of their bell curve), what could you do with that kind of money?

To answer this question, I turned to World Vision's website, which reports that a gift of only $35 will provide $350 worth of medicines. "Every day, thousands of children die because they do not have access to basic medicines that could save their lives. Your gift will multiply 10 times in impact to help ship and distribute essential pharmaceuticals and medical supplies like: antibiotics, anti-fungals, anti-parasitic drugs, deworming medications, disposable syrinees, gastrointestinal drugs, painkillers and surgical supplies."

If you extend that out to encompass the $50,000 spent by Animal Place on old chickens, you could literally provide a half-milllion dollars' worth of life-saving medications through an organization like World Vision. Thousands of childrens' lives would be enhanced and even saved, as a result.

By the way, that site didn't even mention immunizations, or the oral rehydration therapy needed to save the lives of children dying from severe malnutrition. These things cost mere cents.

With that kind of money, you could most certainly save even more human children than old chickens.

I also discovered (here) that for a gift of $25 you can provide a gift of two new chickens (as opposed to paying twice that to send one old chicken to a supposedly comfortable retirement) for a family in poverty in the developing world. Such a gift will "give children and families a lasting source of nutrition and income. Fresh eggs raise the levels of protein and other nutrients in a family’s diet, and the sale of extra eggs and chickens can pay for vital basics."

Sometimes, you just have to prioritize. Chickens ... or children? Which will it be?