John Oliver Explains How the Chicken Industry Systematically Screws Over …

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

John Oliver Attacks Chicken Companies’ Treatment of Farmers on ‘Last Week Tonight’.

While many of us were busy watching Don Draper come up with his final, groundbreaking ad campaign, over on HBO, John Oliver was turning the spotlight on the ugly truths about chicken companies and the farmers they exploit. “We love eating chicken in this country,” says Oliver at the top of his main “Last Week Tonight” segment. John Oliver’s long segment last night dealt with the lives of American chicken farmers, which are, unsurprisingly, almost as bad as the lives of the chickens themselves.

Americans eat a ton of chicken—so much so, chicken farmers produce 160 million chicks a week just to keep up with national consumption, according to the latest “Last Week Tonight.” But despite the industry’s massive output, many contract farmers live near or below the poverty line, all while working under the constant fear of losing their jobs. He didn’t focus his diatribe on the treatment of chickens (although video clips of Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson assured viewers poultry is treated abysmally), but rather on the treatment of America’s chicken farmers. That’s great news for the four companies that dominate the industry: Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrim’s, and Sanderson Farm. “I know what you’re thinking,” Oliver said. “You’re thinking, oh, this is just going to be another story about how horribly chickens are treated.” It isn’t — though if you’re worried about that, blame the chicken companies, not the farmers, Oliver said. Oliver readily admits that animal cruelty is a major issue in modern chicken production, but, in his weekly segment, he focused on the often glossed over life of a chicken farmer, which “has been tough for a long time,” he says.

I know when you hear that someone is outraged about something in the chicken industry you assume you’re about to be bombarded with images depicting the horror of factory farming (which we get it — it is bad, but I’m eating breakfast here). The segment explained how many of the farmers are poor because of “contract farming” practices in which they are responsible for all the expenses of running the farm, but the big poultry companies actually own the chickens — the one part of the business that makes money. “Which poverty line are you referring to? Is that a state poverty line?” National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super asked in “Cock Fight,” a Fusion documentary. “What the fuck are you talking about?

John Oliver walks viewers through the harsh contracts that govern the relationship between the four poultry industry giants, Perdue, Tyson, Pilgrim’s, and Sanderson Farms, and the smaller farms which actually raise the chickens. But it’s John Oliver, so there are laughs mixed in with the horrible stories you never knew you didn’t know — and there’s a cathartic Sean Connery cameo as well. If you find yourself parsing exactly where it is, you’ve probably already done something very, very wrong.” Farmers who have spoken out say they faced retaliation from the powerful poultry industry. What happens when chicken farmers complain about the cruel conditions they are subject to? “Every time that I’ve spoken out against the poultry companies’ wrongdoings, they retaliate by cutting my pay, cutting my chickens back or cutting the quality of my chickens that I get,” said one poultry farmer. He gets fat then.” The farmers also believe that complaining about any of these terms leads the companies to give them “inferior” chickens (the poultry industry denies this is the case).

Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee. “If your representative’s name is up there, and they vote against Marcy Kaptur’s amendment, it is because they — and I cannot stress this enough — are chicken fuckers. And unless they want that chicken-fucker label to follow them for the rest of their lives, they might want to think extra carefully about which way they are going to vote, because chicken-fucker accusations do not come off a Wikipedia page easily. Steve Womack of Arkansas, who has stoutly refused to allow the USDA to enforce rules making life easier for the farmers, including a proposed rule that would make retaliation by the industry illegal.

That could be, as Oliver points out, because Tyson is one of his biggest donors and because his district is where their world headquarters is located. Or, you know, Oliver says, “It could be because he’s sexually attracted to chickens and he’s jealous the farmers get to spend so much time with them.”

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