By Das Sreedharan

“NASA has studied whether a chicken could survive a trip to Mars since we are unlikely to leave this planet without one. 100 million tons of meat and a trillion eggs every year, this wild jungle fowl has become world’s most loved food,” reveals Andrew Lawler in his book Why Did the Chicken Cross the World.

Frequently, I take a walk in Defence Colony in Bengaluru for my breakfast, and as I reach near the park, I notice serious people of all ages doing workouts. It looks as if they are fighting to relax, not being mindful of beauty around them! Besides this, two huge iron cages of a poultry shop stop me every morning. Looking at the jam-packed chickens, I always felt the vulnerability in their short lifespan; they appeared searching for some fresh air and space, just like those people in the park.

As a kid, I wondered why no culture ever questioned killing of animals for our food and ceremonies. I argued and lost many times. I haven’t eluded my curiosity; Ali and Basant Sanu were my rivals as we drove towards Rasa Gurukul. My query was “do you ever imagine the sadness of an animal you ate or feel its hullabaloo from your tummy in sleep?”

A sensitive Sanu looked somewhat guilty and silent until Jasmine served a fiery Chettinad pepper chicken for dinner. He forgot our profound discussion whilst savouring the flavour. A thoughtful Ali, on the other hand, stepped in with a counter, which I heard from hard-core meat eaters all the time. “How about the life of vegetables and plants, don’t you get hurt when you eat them?”

In the past, having a chicken dish was a luxury and pride for middle-class families. Today, you add up all the dogs, cats, cows and pigs and there would still be more chickens—20 billion of them live every moment, three for every human! Andrew Lawler claims chicken seems to have been the early driver of both democracy and free market capitalism.