It’s only pertinent that I, Piqued, head up the fucking row - I mean debate - that has been brought to mine face by Hugh F Whitting-Wotsit over the past three evenings on Channel 4 (which, when I read, I hear it in my head as ‘ChA-NEALL fOOOR’ on account of this West Indian male announcer they employed back in the day. I digress) due to an ongoing discussion regarding a certain Mr. Bernard Matthews and his Chicken Kiev(s).
The premise is simple. Start two chicken farms, one a cuddly free range one, and the other a scene from a painting by Bosch/Breugal depicting hellish acts of (in this case, chicken) damnation – a battery shed.
From scratch the redoubtable Hugh FW cheerily goes about collating information/resources/experts in order to realise his dream of converting the straw-chewing bumpkins of Axminster to go free-range by demonstrating that shoving 50,000 birds into an area the size of a hankie isn’t a very nice thing to do (actually it’s 19 birds to a square metre) where they don’t have access to daylight to increase their growing time from chick to slaughter, which takes just over a month. Obviously the free range fellas are provided with their own five bedroom houses, top of the range Lexus, wide screen TV’s (three of) and a games room, with a full size snooker table and bar.
Hugh’s campaign got off to a bright start by recruiting some families who worked in the nearby allotments. After a brief period of doubt, he made them physically see the different ways of rearing chickens: the lot reclining on Chesterfields reading The Telegraph and other the poor sods pecking shit out of their dead mates’ arseholes in the dark. Apart from one fat cow called Hayley, all were converted tearfully on the spot.
But not all was well in the village. The locals (and really, this lot were a fucking good reason for never leaving London) barked and grunted paranoid abuse in the direction of Hugh and his campaign. Within hours, there were rumours that Hugh’s free range chickens cost ‘twenty pund’. The thick inbred cunts – sorry, did that come out loud? All this as Hugh tirelessly attempted to sign up shops to sell free-range produce. After a hilarious confrontation at the local Tesco (who up until this point had been totally uncooperative, as had the Co-operative, ironically) in which the manager thought Hugh had called him an arsehole, he began to make some progress.
Incidentally, in terms of the campaign having a long term and far-reaching sustainability, Sainsburys seemed to be by far and away the most prepared to assist Hugh’s Chicken Out campaign on a national level. We’ll see…
Overall, the programme was a success. This was due entirely to Hugh’s determination and enthusiasm for his campaign. He was obviously upset at the battery conditions he’d created in order to highlight his plight - on one occasion he was reduced to tears after having to dispatch yet another suffering creature from the intensively reared chicken shed and I noticed his language got all blue and rude due to his exasperation at the backward-thinking townsfolk and money-grabbing corporates as a symptom of his passion.
In all this, however, there was one major flaw, something that vegetarians understand, and for good reason. The bottom line, despite the way they were reared (though I maintain free-range rearing is paramount) is that all the creatures wound up being caught and knacked in the same way, carted off in cramped conditions, hung up upside down on a conveyor, stunned in electrified water and having their throats slit open by the sticker, all for the food industry. I do eat meat, I didn’t used to precisely because of the whole killing part and I am careful to make sure I eat free range/organic birds. But really, eating a free-range animal will always remain the lesser of two evils and no amount of campaigning will change that.
Oooh - look - Piqued just got all serious and deep. I’m off to KFC to recover.