An interesting blog post over at the New York Times titled, “What a Blind Chicken Can Teach Us About Humanity.” It’s about a couple who takes in 12 hens. One of these hens is blind:
Her disability had an interesting effect. It soon became evident that one of the others was with her nearly all the time, following through the grass and roosting next to her at her abnormally early bedtime. One time, the blind one disappeared and after a long search, I found her under the chicken house, her companion sitting by her side. Once when my husband was digging in the garden, closely surrounded by chickens looking for worms, one hen grabbed a worm, dropped it in front of the blind one and left – a gesture that had the appearance if not the substance of altruism.
That is so sweet. I just love that.
Unfortunately, not every hen in the flock was so kind and generous:
The other, less benign, effect of the blindness was on the omega (bottom of the pecking order) hen, fearful and isolated from her short lifetime of harassment. It didn’t take her long to realize that here was someone more defenseless than herself, and all her pent-up anger came out in merciless attacks, random and unprovoked.
Just like humans, I guess.
What is striking to me about the piece is not the sweet story of the blind hen and her supportive flock, but rather the last two lines of the blog:
Over three years, this small poultry clan provided us with rich entertainment, and also a wonderful view into the similarities between chicken and human nature. We are not vegetarians but our experience with these birds makes us respect them and want them to live well. [emphasis mine]
The blind chicken teaches us that humans can witness personality, individuality, generosity, and kindness in nonhuman animals. That we can spot similarities between how human animals treat each other and how chickens in a flock treat each other. That we can acknowledge the intelligence of these nonhuman animals. The blind chicken teaches us that despite all of that, we refuse to abandon our speciesist behavior, that we somehow justify exploiting animals at the same time insisting that we respect them and want them to live well.
What happened to these hens after the three years? Were they slaughtered? Sent off to another home for their eggs?
What happened to the blind hen? After all that she taught you?
My heart breaks.