Gallus Gallus Domesticus

Never been a fan but I used to be able to take or leave chooks.

Even quite enjoyed watching my Great Aunt Aggie’s bantams scratching around the farmyard and always appreciated the eggs. But, for some reason, chicken meat and I did not interact too often in my formative years. I remember grey mince and tough slices of beef and/or pork but I really don’t recall chicken impinging too often in my youth and childhood.

Anyhow, it came to be 1963 and I was 14 years old. Able to work and  earn money in the school holidays. One of the major employers in the Perth area was Marshalls (the Chunky Chicken Champions).

So, one bright Easter morning, I boarded a bus with about 40 other Perth Academicians and hoved off northwards to Coupar Angus. On arrival, we were swiftly sorted. The girls were led off straight away to do what girls were deemed to be capable of doing in those days – it was a different world and I am glad it has gone.

The boys were then lined up and we were asked if anybody fancied trying a bit of evisceration. As it happened, I was the only person present who was in the Latin stream and I had a bad feeling. My hand stayed firmly down and I felt justified when the volunteers were handed elbow-length rubber gloves and led off to a life of entrails scooping.

They then asked if anybody fancied outdoor work. I thought ‘Why not?’ and stuck my hand up. They picked the four tallest including me.

Outdoor work turned out to involve getting picked up at 2 am and driven around the East of Scotland in a van with psychopaths.We would arrive at a broiler house and start picking up the chickens to cram them into cages for transportation to the factory for throat slitting and evisceration – 4 chickens in each hand, picked up by a leg and passed through a hatch to be crammed into a cage of 16 birds. They had been reared in the dark and squatted down as soon as the lights were switched on. The psychos stole the accepted percentage and hid them under the seats in the van. On the way home, they would bring them out, pull their heads off and throw said heads at us intellectuals. Endless hours of fun!

To be fair, the money was really good and I was home and free by about 11 am every day. So, I stuck to it. My favourite memory will always be the time that they sent us to clear a shed of cockerels. Raised in natural light and full of serious male aggression. When the doors of said shed were opened, the bastards charged us.  I do not blame them.

The end result, however, is that I have never since, do not, and never will eat chicken.

So, last Monday I went to a local discount store to replenish my supplies of suet pellets and dried mealworms for my wild bird visitors – sparrows, dunnocks, starlings, blue tit, chaffinches, robin, blackbirds, pigeons and sparrowhawk at the latest census.

As I pushed my trolley towards the bird food aisle, I spotted a really good deal for Heinz Tomato Soup. £2.00 for 6 cans. I lobbed them into said trolley.

Only to find when I got home that I had inadvertently picked up 6 cans of Heinz Chicken Soup. Given that Mrs M. is a vegetarian, we now have 6 cans of soup that will outlast us.

I just hope that our heirs will appreciate them in due course.






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