Thoughts on the activism around a crashed chicken truck in Washington, USA

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. – A semi truck loaded with more than 5,000 chickens crashed in the Dollars Corner area of Clark County, north of Vancouver, killing many of the birds and sending others running onto the road Monday afternoon.

Hours later, an animal rights activist was in handcuffs after refusing to give up one of the chickens. The woman, Amber Canavan, was cited for obstruction of justice and theft, and released later Monday night.

What an awful tragedy. Some time after the incident, animal activists and authorities arrived on the scene. Canavan picked up one of the surviving chickens, and requested that they were allowed to keep it so they could take it to an animal sanctuary.

Foster Farms, the company responsible for the incident, would not allow it, citing that “the company was liable for the chicken and any health risks that came with it“.

I think most people who read my blog would already agree that this entire situation is a travesty, so I want to focus on the last part. Several people in my network have been rightfully upset about the chicken not being taken to a sanctuary, and the activist being detained. I so wish we lived in a world where rescuing an abused, injured non-human animal was not a crime. But it is, and so I think that, perhaps unlike some others, I can sympathise with the authorities here.

I don’t believe that the law is a basis for ethics in all cases, and I don’t believe that one wanting to live an ethical life should always follow the law. There are too many examples from history (and even today) regarding human rights violations that are ‘legal’ that I don’t even need to name them. And yet, I can sympathise with the authorities, whose job it is to uphold the law, when they opt to uphold the law. I think that, if you disagree with the law, the police are not the ones to debate it with.

Regarding Foster Farms being unwilling to allow the chicken to be taken to a sanctuary, their answer actually sounds quite reasonable for two reasons. The first is in the interest of the animals themselves. Taking the chicken to a sanctuary may compromise the health of the other animals already there, given the unknown conditions it was previously in.

The second is in the interest of the company, but still seems somewhat reasonable in that context. If the chicken causes harm to other animals at the sanctuary, Foster Farms would indeed be liable for damages. Imagine you are legal advisor at the company, whose job it is to protect them from legal damages. There is no way you would advocate for the company to be put at such risk for the sake of the chicken.

Many animal advocates have given an out pour of disdain over the last day, asking questions like (paraphrased):

Why can’t Foster Farms just let the injured chicken go to a sanctuary? It won’t make them any money as they are just going to kill it.

Once you look at it from the company’s perspective, you can see there is a good reason for this.

I wish Foster Farms didn’t exploit chickens for money. I wish the truck hadn’t overturned. I wish the injured chickens were allowed to go to a sanctuary. But the world is complex, and I wanted to cover those uncovered bases.

The mince that divided the nation

Major Australian supermarket Woolworths has started stocking a new plant-based mince meat. Given the rising popularity of plant-based alternative food products, this should seem quite unsurprising. That is, until I tell you that it is being stocked in the meat section.

Having a plant-based mince meat not just alongside but among the animal flesh products is, in my opinion, a huge step forward. While some long time ethical vegans may be bothered by the fact that they have to walk in to this section to get one (a concept I’m not rather fond of, either), they are not the target audience. Rather, the target audience is the growing number of Australians that don’t identify as vegan, but want to include plant-based foods in to their diet.

The product quickly sold out from multiple locations, which appears to have attracted some negative attention as well. [below quotes are from this ABC article]

National Party senator Barry O’Sullivan has demanded Woolworths remove the product (plant-based mince) and re-label it, so the Federal Government does not have to step in.

“Woolworths need to pull it from the shelves today,” Senator Sullivan told the ABC.

Whether you eat plant-based meat or not, the senator’s request is surely ridiculous and anti-competition at the least.

Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Mr. David Littleproud, says ““The labelling and positioning of all food products should accurately reflect what’s in the packet,”

Well, Mr. Littleproud, the labelling is quite accurate. The front label of the product clearly states ‘Minced – 100% plant-based’. ‘Mince’ refers to a process/end product, hence why we haven’t banned ‘mince’ fruit pies. The label doesn’t say meat to my knowledge, but as it is stocked in the meat aisle, I’ll say this: ‘Meat’ does not exclusively refer to animal flesh.

Deputy Prime Minister Mr McCormack “urged anyone confused to contact the ACCC.

“Mince is mince, mince is meat,” he said.

“That’s my interpretation of what mince is.”

Your personal interpretation of a word with a predefined meaning shouldn’t matter. ‘Mince’ does not mean animals. The product is clearly labelled as plant-based. You insult the Australian consumer by insinuating they don’t know that means ‘not animal flesh’.

The Australian Meat Industry Council’s Patrick Hutchinson said “”That [faux-mince] product is a heap of different plants”. How do so many powerful men not know what the word ‘mince’ means? The product isn’t faux-mince, it’s mince, by every definition of the word ‘mince’ that I am aware of. Again, we don’t call them faux-mince fruit pies.

Let’s make one thing clear, more Australians are realising they can source a healthy diet in ways that reduce animal exploitation and suffering as well as environmental impact. This mince product’s success reflects that. Assuming I can get there before the government steps in and does something bordering on insanity, I cant wait to try it.

Two impactful things you can do this World Environment Day

Happy World Environment Day! Last year I wrote a post about what you can do for the environment. This year I’m doing something similar, but going for a lighter format. Enjoy!

Days like these are great opportunities to reflect and make sure we are doing all we practically can to protect the environment. Today, I’d like to focus on two small things that we as individuals can do which are highly effective but not very often talked about.

Cool Earth

Within a particular cause area, some charities can be as much as 1000’s of times more effective than others. So if you’re going to donate to an environmental charity, it’s crucial to make sure your $$ are having the most impact they can. One stand out environmental charity is Cool Earth.

Cool Earth works to stop deforestation, and are so effective that $1.34 US donated to them reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 1 tonne of CO2-equivalent. As of 2016, this was one of the best charities for reducing GHG emissions.

The average American uses about 20 tonnes of CO2 per year as of 2006, so you could offset a years worth of emissions for just $26.8.

Livestock industry

Over the past few decades, the impact of the livestock industry on the environment has become increasingly clear. Below I’ve outlined a few key statistics to show just big the impact is (stats are relative to the average US meat eating diet).

Image from Stat from
Image from Stat from
Image from Stat from

Adopting a plant-based diet is more effective for reducing your CO2 emissions than forgoing showers, having solar panels, and using bikes instead of cars.

So what can you do about this? Well for starters, you should definitely consider not having any animal products today (I might be too late for that), but also you should consider having less or no animal products in the future. It’s becoming easier every day with increasing access to cheap, delicious plant-based food.

I initially stopped eating meat because I became convinced that it was one of the most effective things I could do to help the environment, and it was way easier than I expected. I’d like to encourage everyone to try it. Just start with one vegan day a week and work from there.

Great tasting food doesn’t have to contain animal products. If you live in Sydney check out Soul Burger for some plant based deliciousness, like this ‘chicken’ and ‘bacon’ burger (my weekly guilty pleasure)!

If you need some help or inspiration, check out this guide.

For a more detailed look at the research behind the environmental impacts of the livestock industry, start with these: