On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains how chicken farming can be unfair, punishing, and inhumane – and not just for the chickens! We feel badly when we see the miserable and cruel conditions in which poultry is produced; but the farmer may be worse off than the poor birds he tries to raise.
Ads by the big four poultry companies feature sunshine, jangly guitar music and happy, prosperous farmers. Thanks to John, we learn that those happy farmers are as mythical as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Thanks John. Those farmers simply do not exist. In actuality a poultry farmer lives at – or below the poverty line as a contract farmer for Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrim’s or Sanderson Farms. As you will see, the abuse those corporations heap upon farmers is scandalous.
A poultry farmer is likely to have ulcers from debt incurred for ‘improvements’ forced on him by the corporations. He takes the risks financially, they get the profit. They also make all of the rules. If you feel badly for the chickens, so does the farmer, who’s not allowed to use his expertise. If the company says he is to keep the poor birds crowded in a dark barn, so they cannot move or get fresh air, that is what he has to do to keep his contract. Likewise, if the company says he needs nipple feeders, tunnel houses and black out curtains, those whimsical ‘improvements’ come out of the farmer’s pocket.
Worst of all, the farmers can’t sit down and have a little heart to heart with the corporations who hold their contracts. If the farmer complains, or attends meetings or speaks out in any way, retaliation is swift and often means the end of his ‘luxurious’ poverty line existence.
In short…He takes the risks, puts himself in deep debt, and cannot say ‘cluck’ about it!
There is something we can do.
Last year Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) attempted to ensure the right of farmers to speak out without retribution, with an amendment.
The Kaptur Amendment went down in flames, in large part due to Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) I’m certain it is coincidental that he receives a great deal of poultry money, and that Tyson’s world headquarters is nestled in Womack’s home district. As John said, Womack is probably just jealous of farmers.
Next month the provision to protect farmers will come up for a vote again. There are 51 committee members. If you see your representative on John’s screen, you must write and tell them to vote YES for the Kaptur Amendment!
John Oliver’s audience has accomplished great things in the past, and we can do this! Tell your rep not to be a chicken poop when he or she votes! Then again, you could be less tactful, it’s up to you.