Thursday, December 20, 2007

Show your support to Mepkin!

Mepkin Abbey to stop selling eggs under pressure from PETA I had no idea that PETA had such an organized campaign to force the monastery to cave in.

Here's an NCR story from February. [I'd commented on this story briefly back then as well.]

PETA must have been keeping up serious pressure, if the monks could say this (from a statement from the Abbot on their website):
While the monks are sad to give up work that has sustained them for many years, a hard and honorable work of which they are proud, the pressure from PETA has made it difficult for them to live their quiet life of prayer, work and sacred reading. The monks have also found it difficult to extend hospitality, which is their hallmark, under such conditions.
I have no idea about the actual details of procedures and so on here -- I'm no expert, as the phrase goes. I do have a prejudice against PETA and extreme animal-rights activists, and I absolutely adore the monks at Mepkin, and simply cannot believe that they would treat their chickens less than humanely. Of course, for PETA perhaps the fact that humans eat chicken eggs is an abomination. How the heck can one talk to such folk? I can only imagine what kinds of protests PETA must have been indulging in, making life hell for these peace-loving men, who radiate such warmth and charity, who take seriously their stewardship of some pristine Low-country marshlands (and refuse to give in to pressure from developers), and who share the natural beauty of their lands, and the produce of their hands so generously, with the local people.

Please write to Abbot Gumula and the monks expressing your support and prayers for them. And go to their online store and show your financial support as well.

[H/t Word Wench. Also check out Leonardo's post.]


Anonymous said...

PETA worships animals. It is only one aspect of the general return to paganism that is engulfing our culture. Egg-producing as it is done today in large caged-layer facilities is problematic, I must say. I have no idea how Mepkin was doing it, but it is difficult to compete in that business without caging the birds in very tight confinement that does put them under a good deal of stress--they engage in some pretty weird behavior.

After a tornado in 1973 in Northern Indiana where I grew up, I went out to help with the clean-up. I ended up with an Amishman and two or his sons who were detailed supposedly to help a poultry farmer clean up debris. When we got there, we realized that they wanted help to pull the chickens out of their cages and put them on a truck (probably for slaughter) because with electricity cut off, they had to be dealt with or they would die (at least that is my assumption). Looking back on it I'm not sure whether I was right to think we were being abused--the poultry farmer did have a real problem on his hands even if it wasn't a collapsed building.

But I'll never forget the comment of the Amish father as he surveyed the rows upon rows of cages. He said, "that's no way to treat chickens."

Now, he was right about that, in one sense. On the other hand, I know how my grandfathers handled the egg business (they, like many farmers, peddled fresh eggs and fresh produce into nearby towns as a way to get a better price and make a go of their small farms). Free range chickens lay eggs all over the place and wives/children were responsible for finding them. The wives handled this (it was too petty a job for the husbands mnaging the farm) because they got to keep the proceeds for "pin money" (to buy things their husbands would never have permitted because they were "too fancy."

You can't run an agribusiness egg production that way. I'm sure there are approaches in between that and the immense caged-layer operations where the eggs roll down a chute automatically and are candled and sorted automatically (that was another job the children handled--holding the egg over a light to make sure it was not fertilized or "bloody").

I don't know what kind of an operation Mepkin was conducting but I imagine they had to have some form of caged operation simply in order to compete. I doubt that free range chickens would fit with their contemplative life.

So, I have no use for PETA but I also have no solution to the problem of modern egg production. Perhaps Mepkin had found a defensible way to do things and PETA was totally off the wall this time around. I also wonder whether PETA pickets the really big operations or picks on what they think will be soft targets, like contemplative monks, the way panhandlers take up their stations outside Catholic churches as Mass lets out.

WordWench said...

Mepkin does have a caged operation but it is a much cleaner and humane operation than many you see. On the property they have and with the number of men they have to oversee the egg farm there is really no viable way to do free range farming. These chickens are fed with very high quality products. Music is even played for them. Chickens in cages is not my favorite thing, but these monks run an egg operation that could be a model for the modern industry.

What really galls me is that if PETA wanted to target brutality to poultry, there are about 100 other farms here in South Carolina they could have looked into where are conditions are TRULY filthy and barbaric. Why they are pestering these holy men I do not know. The original news item came out after PETA sent a worker in masquerading as a "guest" working at the farm. So the monks have basically been betrayed by a spy who took advantage of their hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the details. I'm sure you are right about the targeting. It sounds like the monks were doing their best. Like I said, PETA worships animals and therefore has it in for monotheists who don't.

Mattheus Mei said...

supporting their store is one thing, but these men will need a lot of seed money to start up some kind of new operation, and sadly they may have to sell off their land, does anyone know how to start an internet charity? I'm sure people would be willing to give at least $5 so the monks can get something started instead of them having to sell land to pesky developers!!!

Gashwin said...

Anon, thanks for your very helpful and informative comments! I have no idea how farming (of any sort) works in these modern times. I am, of course, more than willing to trust that the monks were concerned about such things.

I think y'all may be onto something when it comes to the target: attacking monks garners so much more publicity than just some humdrum poultry operation!

Mattheus: good call. Why don't you look up forming a 501c(3), say "Friends of Mepkin?" or something? Or, given that Mepkin is already registered as a non-profit, and has a development office (I get mailings from them regularly), perhaps an internet campaign to create more donors? I am sure their development person would have ideas as well. Call down there. I'll be willing to give some time and attention to this as well!

Bowtie said...

It seems pretty brave of the PETA folks to move against a bunch of monks. I live in a large agricultural area in Virginia. A flock of 38,000 laying hens isn't all that large.

I dislike the PETA people, and this situation just reinforces it. Whether PETA is right or wrong regarding the chickens, singling out monks and taking advantage of their hospitality is darn low.

Ken said...

I spent a week with the brothers at Mepkin and worked with them. The laying barns did not seem obnoxious. Candling and sorting was done by hand in another room.

Yes, when I was a kid, my grandmother (assisted by whatever children were around) gathered eggs from nests around the place, generally enough to feed us and sell a few. That was then, this is now. If we want to go back to an agrarian society, we could do that, but I doubt we will.

In the meantime, the PETA bullies pick on monks because they can. A commercial operation would ignore them and the monks should as well