Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chick-Fil-A: Bad on Every Front

Chick-Fil-A has been in the news lately after the company’s president, Dan Cathy, gave his and his company’s views on gay people’s right to marry. He said, “I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'"

People who believe that gays have, just as straight people do, the right to marry were outraged that Cathy could publically support bigotry and homophobia. (Followers of this issue already knew of Cathy’s stance, as the company had donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups previously.) Marriage, as many religious conservatives don’t realize, is much more than a religious practice. In the United States, it’s a civil practice, and it comes with thousands of federal rights which are denied to gays. Conservative figures like Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Billy Graham, and Sarah Palin have weighed in on the debate, publically supporting Cathy’s views, and asking their supporters to eat at Chick-Fil-A. On the other end of the political spectrum, politicians like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, have told the company that it is unwelcome in their cities, and gay rights activists have called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A.

For animal activists, there is much more to dislike about Chick-Fil-A than their position on gay marriage. It has gone unmentioned in the current debate, but Chick-Fil-A makes its profits—Chick-Fil-A is valued at $4.5 billion—off of the sale of slaughtered chickens. In 2010, the company sold over 282 million chicken sandwiches, which equals to 537 sandwiches a minute or 9 per second. Because each sandwich contains one full breast, and a chicken has two breasts, that means that 141 million chickens were killed in 2010 for Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. In other words, 268 chickens per minute or 4.5 chickens per second lost their lives to meet the demands of Chick-Fil-A’s hungry customers and to increase the profits for the Cathy family.

Obviously, Chick-Fil-A is just one of countless fast-food and regular restaurant chains to sell chicken. Americans eat 7 billion chickens per year, and as most educated consumers know, these animals spend the majority of their lives in confinement, never experiencing fresh air, green grass, or an afternoon kicking up their feet in the sun. Instead, they live and die in misery, and are not even protected by a single federal law; they are excluded from all federal animal protection laws. If you’ve ever spent time with a chicken, you probably know that they are smart, inquisitive and funny animals, who enjoy the most simple pleasures—pleasures which are denied to billions of these animals per year.

Boycotting Chick-Fil-A probably won’t do much to further the cause of marriage equality for all in this country. Chick-Fil-A has enough socially conservative customers, especially in the southern states, to make up for those who no longer give the company their business. But no longer eating chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A, or at McDonald’s, KFC, or any of the countless other restaurants and establishments that serve chicken, could make a serious dent in the number of chickens who die each year.