J500 Media and the Environment

Local Officials Lay Egg With Proposed Chicken Ordinance by vincemeserko

There’s a scourge just waiting to engulf Lawrence and afflict terror on its residents. This scourge haunts children and terrifies the community with the threat of illness. The scourge is of grave concern, and preventive action must be taken.

Somebody needs to stop the chickens.

According to City Hall officials you cannot trust chickens, especially chickens that live in suburban backyards. They could be carriers of harmful disease. As reported in the Lawrence Journal-World  city officials are drawing up an ordinance that would ban individuals from owning chickens in their backyard unless they live on at least five acres and “meet other guidelines.” Public health officials cite chicken’s notoriously substandard hygiene practices as a reason for the ban. It is thought small children might mix it up with the chickens and become ill.  I am wondering if this is necessary. Are hyperactive, neglected children escaping from their homes, leaping over backyard fences and mingling with small farm animals? After the chicken encounters, are the children then involuntarily putting their fingers in their mouths? Who are these children? Bob Gent, a local artist and chicken owner defended chicken ownership. He was quoted in the paper as saying that “For me, this is kind of a symbolic gesture,” adding that “It is a recognition of the cycle of life around us. I think society would be better off if we were more connected with where our food came from.”

Gent is probably right. We are divorced from our food. One of the first lessons of our Media & the Environment class involved me learning that my pipin’ hot McDonald’s flapjacks probably traveled very far distances before arriving on my plate. It was not something I had ever really considered. I’m not sure what I was thinking. That egg McMuffins and hotcakes were being cultivated by local farmers? While Gent should be commended for recognizing the miles and miles that separate us from our food, what if the threat posed to children were actually true? In fact, just a few months ago an Associated Press story by John Heilprin exposed a controversial scientific experiment performed in 2000 by EPA and Johns Hopkins researchers that involved toxic sludge being tilled into yards in low-income neighborhoods as a way of fighting lead poisoning. In fact, the whole experiment was predicated on the assumption that if the children would eat the sludge they would be better protected from lead poisoning. While the researchers, which included Dr. Michael Klag of Johns Hopkins, staunchly denied the toxicity of the tilled substance, it certainly raises questions about the likelihood of children ingesting foreign substances if a prominent research university built an entire experiment around this premise. That said, an ordinance banning backyard chickens seems superfluous and an unnecessary waste of valuable time. If anything, it might encourage people to hoard barnyard animals. Heck, I would consider myself now vaguely intrigued at the prospects of owning some chickens. I bet the eggs taste better and better tasting locally-raised food is nothing to cluck about.