Another week. Another story of animal cruelty. It seems, as Anna Krien wrote for the Quarterly Essay, that our relationship with animals has reached a weird point. Some people fetishise animals; treat them as child substitutes, make them wear ridiculous clothes, jewellery even. Take them shopping in their hand bags. Feed them better than we feed hospital patients.
21 Mar 2013 - 3:55 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Then, in another part of the same society, we also incarcerate them in ways we never have before. Feedlot them. Intensively farm them. And treat them inhumanely; these beings that are our charges, our responsibility. Though the mistreatment happens often where we can’t see it. Sadly, it’s often left to animal activists to find out the truth.

Which reminds me. Last year, I wrote a blog about our chickens at home and said I’d write more on the topic later. Well, because we filmed those chooks, and the show is running today on that, it seems a good time to give a bit of background to the filming. And only a very, very small story it is. I wanted to visit a modern chicken meat farm. One in my state. I had been asked by the Australian Chicken Meat Federation to visit one in NSW to 'dispel some modern misconceptions" around chicken farming. But when I said I’d love to come, but that a film crew was following me, there was no 'capacity to bring them along in this instance".

We took a different tack. Through Gourmet Farmer, our researcher tried to get access to film at a chicken meat farm in Tasmania. That’s my home state, so it made sense to visit a farm that we could get some day-old chicks through. Like many of our stories, it would’ve been good to visit a farm that could help with my own attempts to rear animals. But not a single one, that we could find, would let us film.

Is there a story in being denied access? Not for telly, it would seem. But there is definitely a story. The story is we weren’t allowed to visit a chicken farm. Not with a film crew. What does that say about the culture of the raising of about 520 million chickens that go onto Australian tables each year? What does a closed door say to me, as someone who has some limited experience of farming and animal husbandry?

It rings a warning bell. Is there something I wouldn’t like? That the viewers wouldn’t like? And if so, should we, as a society, be allowing it to happen at all?

As I said, there’s very little to tell. No access means no story. I was keen to show you the modern production methods of arguably Australia’s favourite meat. But instead you’ll have let your imagination tell the story for you. And what you’ll see probably depends on what you want to believe, rather than what is actually happening.