Letter to the Editor on Chicken Issue

Mark Lynch, a well-known member of Lowell’s blogosphere, shared the following letter to the editor he composed about his thoughts on allowing city residents to own and raise chickens:

Last night I attended a neighborhood action meeting for the first time in three years or so. I did so because I wanted to see and hear with my own eyes and ears the responses of my neighbors first hand when a group of citizens who have taken the time to come before the city council to essentially beg for permission to keep chickens be it as pets, egg producers, or a source of meat in their own homes. The ones they legally reside in, the ones they pay taxes on. The ones we as “citizens” we’re told we can do what we want on.

Rachel Chandler from the Lowell backyard Chicken group got up and spoke about the importance of safe nutritiously dense food for her and her children. She was snickered at and in some instances ridiculed. I was there, I heard it, so I know. “I went to Market Basket and the cheapest thing there is a dozen eggs.” one resident said. Yes. That’s true. But do you know what the chickens who produced those eggs were fed? How they were treated? (or more likely mistreated?) Probably not. But if I choose to keep chickens in my yard, I know what they’ve been fed and how they’ve been treated. After watching the documentary Food, Inc. and speaking from personal experience and I can tell you that YES there is a difference in the taste of organic eggs and pasture raised meats then the hormone and steroid filled factory raised and slaughtered animals at the grow houses of Smithfield, Tyson, etc. Those animals are kept indoors for their entire lives yet because these companies are big enough to be able to afford the resources to pay lobbyists in DC to make sure members of both major political parties vote to ensure that their chickens, turkeys, and pigs never get to see the light of day. As NY Times bestselling author and well known and respected farmer Joel Salatin has noted on many an occasion “Folks, this ain’t normal.”

Contrary to what some people think, the food at the supermarket does not magically appear under plastic waiting for you to consume it. Someone, somewhere has to take the time and expend the energy to get up early and seed, feed, and breed on their land so the other over 99% of us have something to buy at the super market. So it should be up to me if I would like to frequent a farmers market to ensure my money stays local and goes to that farmer rather than go to some faceless big Agra firm or better yet trade some of my heirloom tomatoes for some of my neighbors peppers or perish the thought some of their chickens eggs. It doesn’t get more fresh then that does it? Moreover how many of us even TALK to our neighbors anymore? Do not be fooled by those that tell you people are looking to turn the acre into a chicken ranch. No one is. No one’s looking to breed roosters either. These are people looking to keep a small amount of chickens for PERSONAL use and maybe to give some eggs to family and friends.

If this chicken ordinance passes will there be problems? Yes there will. Just like every single other law on the books since the beginning of time. Some chickens will get out. Some will get hit by cars, grabbed by the neighbors dog, a stray cat, a fox or even a raccoon or two. But as I sat in that meeting listening to concerns some legitimate, other specious in nature be answered by raw data and fact only to be met with essentially “well that’s all fine and good but I still don’t want them near me.” that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not being a good neighbor either. If my neighbor paints there house pepto-bismol pink I have no recourse. NOR SHOULD I. Might it be an eye sore? Yes, but It’s THEIR house, on THEIR property. I have no say. Honestly this issue like so many others boils down to one simple word- control. In this day in age I see, hear, and read a whole lot about one group of people telling others what they can and can’t do. Almost as if it’s sport to some. Again this doesn’t sit well with me, and frankly it shouldn’t sit well with anyone else reading this either. Keeping chickens might not be your issue, it’s not really mine either because I own two dogs and have sense enough to know they wouldn’t get along. But next time maybe they want to ban the breed of dog you own, or enact an ordinance on fence height. If you don’t say anything now how can you expect others to stand with you when it’s your ox being gored?

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my grandfather not too long ago, he just turned 81 and fought in the Korean War. I told him about a man who had just died. He was a part of Easy Company and was one of the famed “Band of Brothers” they made the miniseries about. I told him that it made me sad that eventually men like him wouldn’t be around anymore to impart their wisdom to younger men such as myself. I told him that compared to when he was my age we’re soft. Not self reliant like men like him. He agreed. I think any measure we can take as people to fix our own roof, can our own vegetables, grow our own heirloom tomatoes, or keep our own chickens shouldn’t be snickered at or made fun of by the likes of Dan Phelps or those that want to be able to tell me what to do on my own land but rather should be looked at for what it really is- freedom. People come to this country everyday for just that reason. Self reliance in today’s society is becoming something that happens less and less. It shouldn’t be snickered at it should be applauded, moreover it’s also an example that should be followed not mocked and ridiculed.

5 Responses to Letter to the Editor on Chicken Issue

  1. Dave I. says:

    Very well put….I fully concur with your sentiment. Too many people in the “old” Lowell network want to see the city somehow miraculously advance without embracing any amount of progressivism. We saw how well the old paradigms worked here througout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s; it’s time to continue shifting that paradigm in a forward-looking manner, or we’ll be doomed to repeat our past. As a cinemtatic emblem of Lowell, would we rather see a “Homegrown Revolution” or “High on Crack Street?”

  2. Joe S says:

    The average per capita consumption of eggs in the USA for 2012 was 248.9 eggs. With a population of approximately 106,000 the residents of the City of Lowell would have consumed approximately 2 million dozen eggs last year. At $1.75 per dozen, that would be about $3.5 million spent on eggs. If we assume half of that consumption is with eggs already incorporated in other foods, then it leaves about $1.75 million on the table as eggs.

    If 80% of that price ends up leaving the City (to pay for the source and transportation of eggs), then there is a reduction in wealth within the city of $1.4 million per year.

    That drain on the economy of the city could be reduced if the eggs were produced here!

  3. Mark says:

    Thank you for your kind words, but I don’t see this as an old vs. new arguement. To frame it as such is counterproductive and I think a tad lazy. There are plenty of people all over the city who fall into different groups in favor of this. I don’t consider myself “New Lowell” as I’ve lived here for almost 35 years and was born here. I also sure as hell am not a “profgressive” (no offense intended). What I am though is a lover of liberty and a man who was raised with a certain set of values, beliefs, and I’m just crazy enough to THINK, and make well reasoned arguements when needed (even if the spelling sucks at times).

  4. Dave I says:

    Mark, thanks for responding to my comments. I didn’t mean “old” and “new” in a literal sense, but rather a figurative one. I myself am a Lowell native and (with the exception of a 12 year stint, spent between Cambridge and Salem) have lived here almost as long as you. I simply meant that there are too many resistant to change, and those are the individuals I was referring to as the “old Lowell network.” Sorry if my original post wasn’t clear.