Better to have free-range or farmed chickens?

The most suggestive answer repeated by anti-farming activists would certainly be ‘free’. But it is an answer full of rhetoric and very superficial.


When the question is raised as to whether the chickens and hens we eat should be ‘free’ instead of ‘locked’ in farms, they forget to consider that

– farms are an achievement of the effort to generate food for the world’s population and exist with the precise function of enabling humankind to have healthy, controlled, cheap, readily available food sources;

– protected poultry farms provide animals with a very high quality of life compared to what they would experience in the wild, and yet those farms exist only at the behest of mankind for food purposes.


What is the best condition for a chicken?


Free chickens (which, where they exist, are in any case kept in the backyards of farmers’ families) face difficult ‘natural’ conditions and potential suffering. Animals bred for food purposes, on the other hand, get the benefit of shelter, better housing conditions, guaranteed feed, health care and protection from predators… which are improved conditions (compared to their peers in backyards) and in any case closely related to the purpose for which they are bred.

The free chicken, precisely because it is exposed to the weather, disease and predators, is in fact not so sure that it can live longer than a broiler intended for slaughter on a specific date that enjoys a short life, but one of better quality thanks to human intervention.

A planned term is not necessarily a bad thing for them and, indeed, pain-free premature death could even be seen as positive compared to potential future suffering due to old age or illness. However, these are considerations that tend to compare chickens with people and equate human expectations with the assumptive expectations of a chicken.

Furthermore, it is important to note that all agricultural food production always involves casualties and habitat destruction: casualties due to the shredding of rabbits, mice, birds nesting on the ground, amphibians and reptiles, insects, worms, snails…. where human-driven machines pass by to cultivate the land.


Vegetable foods can also have their own harmful consequences: quinoa, soy, palm oil, cashew nuts, avocados and greenhouse crops produce environmental damage, loss of wildlife that could get bigger if vegans increased in numbers, … a problem that would also occur if vegan orientations induced even partial changes to the diets of the omnivorous population. The best solution is always a balanced diet, which the extremists instead reject a priori without realising the consequences that listening to them would produce.


Specism is also short-sighted


The “non-speciesist” activists oppose the killing of all animals for human use and do not accept any standard of welfare as a sufficient condition, they want the total elimination of farming because they consider it an immoral exploitation regardless of the efforts made by farmers to create very high conditions of animal welfare.

The various forms of activism include both those who would like to apply a vegan project to the whole of society, and those who in more open and reasonable ways ask for welfare standards for farmed animals using the method of media pressure and dialogue with transversal stakeholders.


The various forms of activism include both those who would like to apply a vegan project to the whole of society, and those who in a more open and reasonable manner demand welfare standards for farmed animals using the method of media pressure and dialogue with cross-party stakeholders.


The ethical assessments of those who promote hostility towards livestock farming are, however, mostly personal considerations which may reflect narrow interests or dubious motivations of those who proclaim them. Vegan concerns are certainly “genuine” concerns which however – one cannot help but observe – reflect the beliefs and attitudes of militants who make observations relating to their own social context, making very questionable and above all unverifiable hypotheses about the needs and desires of livestock. It should also be noted that vegans describe their struggle as universal although they do not have such a vast support for affirming it, actually limited to the middle classes of Western cities, in religious environments characterized by severe attitudes, especially of those who consider foods of animal origin to be impure.


These forms of extremism then take root on a strictly economic and commercial level which exploits their intensity and the very forms of communication, developing commercial activities whose sole objective is to respond to consumer demand. But this is a topic that also opens up to considerations that are anything but connected to animal welfare and correct nutrition.


The editorial staff of M.A.C.