Ruffling Feathers

It seems like everybody and his pet chicken is interested in keeping a hen or two in his backyard, ’cause, you know, we need the eggs.

But what happens when your hens stop laying eggs—or when you just get tired of an ovo-lacto diet and start looking for some flesh-based protein? L. E. Leone (who, I have it on good authority, has been obsessed by chickens for a very long time: keeping them, raising them, and especially eating them) explores the less pastoral side of urban farming in “There Will Be Chicken Blood” in Slate.

There’s a part of me that likes to kill. When I do what I do with a hatchet and a chicken, I feel like crap, and I feel like God. I feel alive and in love and closer than ever to death.

It’s heady stuff, but Leone has a clear-eyed view of the dispatching of poultry for reasons both selfish (gotta eat) and altruistic (putting sick or hurt animals down). Her meditation on doing what needs to be done—whether you’re raising chickens for pets or meat—adds a level of philosophical understanding and real-world grittiness to the ongoing debate around ethical eating.

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