Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Going Outside

We all know it's good to go outside when the sun is shining because you can get your Vitamin D, as well as some exercise and fresh air.

We also all know it's bad to go outside when the sun is shining because you can get sunburns, as well as skin damage and melanoma.

We're actually kind of ambivalent about going outside, and not just because of ultraviolet light. We love to bask in the sun, and some of us even like to bake our pale skin in it until it's brown (those of us who have pale skin, that is; I don't want to make anybody feel left out here). Yet we also love to sit in our comfortable homes with our sofas, books and television sets.

Isaac Asimov wrote a great essay once about why he hated "nice days," that is to say, days when the sun is shining. People would say to him, "What are doing inside on such a beautiful day?" (Of course, this was back in the days when people said such things. Nowadays we just call up whatever weather or world we want on our various little screens and monitors.) Asimov didn't want to go outside, even on beautiful days. He wanted to stay inside and write. And the results speak for themselves--you don't churn out a jaw-dropping 500-plus books in one lifetime by doing outdoorsy things.

Given this propensity of human beings to stay indoors on occasion, you would think we'd have a little more understanding of and sympathy for chickens. Have I just confused you? Let me explain. I have sometimes heard the argument that there is no point in raising chickens free-range--in giving them access to the outside--because chickens don't want to go outside anyway. Personally, I have visited small, organic farms and I am here to tell you that chickens do go outside. I was at a farm on an overcast day and almost all the chickens were outside. Perhaps on sunny days they like to be in the shade. I don't know. My point is that just because chickens don't always choose to go outside doesn't mean they're just as happy being under permanent house arrest. Think about it: sometimes you like to stay inside; does that mean you wouldn't complain if you were locked in your house and never allowed out again? Isaac Asimov often chose to stay in his office and bang away on his typewriter (which was a mechanical thing that people used before desktop computers were invented), but do you think he would have liked it if somebody locked him up in a little cage? Even if it had a typewriter in it? Of course not! He would have been very upset, although not nearly as upset as he would have been had the cage had no typewriter.

Try to put yourself in the chicken's place, mentally. Walk a mile in the chicken's... uh, talons. We're really not that different from chickens, if you think about it.

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