The good news is, vegan food technology means the birds on the menu need not be real
MEMPHIS, Tennessee––The avian advocacy world is still aflutter, a week after CBS News 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi extensively exposed the “Birds Aren’t Real” hoax conspiracy theory orchestrated from Memphis by 24-year-old University of Arkansas dropout and former psychology major Peter McIndoe.
Alleges McIndoe through a bullhorn on streets all over the U.S., accompanied by chanting “bird truthers”: “Every single bird in the sky is a robot. The United States government basically massacred 12 billion birds, beautiful living birds, using crop-dusting airplanes flying over the states over the course of 40 years. And as the real birds died, the robotic drones rose. Now we live in a world where 12 billion robotic birds are watching us every single day.”
“Drone birds sit on wires to charge”
The “spy birds,” McIndoe claims, recharge their batteries by resting on telephone and power pole wires.
“The government has sold the public on this lie of power lines or, oh, you’re talking to people through these wires, telephone wires, you know,” McIndoe told Alfonsi. “When really, you know they put up poles and wires for drones to sit on, and charge.”
Narrated Alfonsi, “More than a million people have become followers of ‘Birds Aren’t Real.’ Thankfully, it’s all pure satire. The ‘conspiracy theory’ is intended to mirror some of the absurdity that’s taken flight across the country.”
McIndoe and his following don’t seem to disturb the American Bird Conservancy, whose focal message might be summarized as “Birds Are Real––let’s keep them alive.”
“Anything that gets people talking about birds is a good thing,” American Bird Conservancy publicity director Jordan Ritter told ANIMALS 24-7.
“It’s definitely a way we can start a conversation,” Ritter added.
McIndoe tours, posts videos, and demonstrates with “co-conspirators” Claire Chronis, Connor Gaydos, and Cameron Kasky.
Kasky, Alfonsi mentioned, in 2018 survived the Parkland, Florida, high school mass shooting. Fourteen of his classmates and three of his teachers were killed.
“Kasky helped create March For Our Lives, an organization that calls for stronger gun laws,” Alfonsi recalled.
Poultry are not real to consumers
High-energy as the “Birds Aren’t Real” satirical street performances are, though, they understate the reality that the ten billion-plus birds killed each year by the poultry industry “aren’t real” to most of the people who eat them and their eggs.
Those birds, billions of chickens and hundreds of millions of turkeys, live and die unseen, existing for most consumers only as a finished product.
The 1.4 million wild birds killed by USDA Wildlife Services each year on behalf of agribusiness are barely any more visible.
“Chickens & turkeys are real”
United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis told ANIMALS 24-7 that she watched the 60 Minutes segment on “Birds Aren’t Real” one and a half times “to be sure that the ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ campaign does in fact oppose and obliquely protest the government massacre of real living, beautiful birds.
“I wish that concern for real birds were more prominently expressed in this project,” Davis said, “but that, I assume, would be thought to conflict with the satirical humor of it.
“Perhaps a variation on the ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ campaign,” Davis suggested, “could be a ‘Chickens & Turkeys Are Real’ campaign in which fake poultry are shown living in squalor on factory farms to reassure poultry and egg consumers that the plant-based poultry and eggs they are unknowingly eating come from ‘real’ chickens and turkeys and are not ‘fake.’”
Respect for Chickens day
Unfortunately for real chickens and turkeys, plant-based analogs for poultry and egg products have only just began to win significant market share from the “real birds” industry.
The CBS News 60 Minutes broadcast about “Birds Are Not Real” might to some extent have upstaged the seventeenth annual “International Respect for Chickens Day,” begun by Davis in 2005 “to celebrate chickens throughout the world and protest their suffering and abuse in agribusiness, experimental research, cockfighting, and other cruelties.”
Respect for Chickens month
The entire month of May is International Respect for Chickens Month, Davis reminded.
“We urge everyone to do a compassionate action for chickens, on or around May 4th,” Davis asked, suggesting “A library display, a vegan open house, an informative blog post, or simply talking to family and friends about the plight – and delight – of chickens.
“Happy chickens are cheerful birds,” Davis emphasized.
“Horrific bird flu”
One day after International Respect for Chickens Day, Vox.com deputy editor Kenny Torella published an anything-but-cheerful exposé, “The horrific bird flu that has wiped out 36 million chickens and turkeys, explained.”
Torella detailed much that ANIMALS 24-7 already has, probably causing many readers to wish that birds caught up in agribusiness are not real.
The H5N1 avian influenza normally does not infect humans, Torella began, but “when certain strains of avian flu do manage to infect humans, it can be deadly,” he wrote.
“From 2003 to 2021, a little more than half of the 863 people who contracted an earlier strain of H5N1 died,” Torella reminded.
“They kill the whole flock”
For that reason, and because H5N1 spreads extremely rapidly, “When chicken, turkey, and egg companies detect one infected bird, they kill the whole flock,” Torella told his audience, most of whom may be assumed to have previously known little or nothing about the realities of the poultry industry.
“During the 2014-2015 bird flu outbreak,” Torella continued, “the most common culling method in the U.S. entailed spraying turkeys with suffocating water-based foam; with this method, it takes seven to 15 minutes for the birds to die, and it causes significant pain.
“The second-most common method was gassing hens with carbon dioxide in small enclosures, which can render birds unconscious within 30 seconds.
“But according to the USDA, deploying these methods was sometimes too slow to meet the need of depopulating infected flocks within 24 hours,” Torella updated.
Birds are watching!
“So, at the end of 2015, fearing another wave of outbreaks, the USDA approved ventilation shutdown — closing off air vents so the temperature rises,” causing the birds to die of heat stroke from two to four hours later.
Concluded Torella, “Considering the speed at which bird flu spreads among commercial poultry flocks, and how painful it is for infected birds, the industry has no choice but to mass cull. But the USDA’s approval of ventilation shutdown in 2015 and the rise of its use in recent years, combined with the slow pace of vaccine approval and adoption, mean that for the time being, the birds themselves will continue to receive little consideration in the fight against bird flu.”
Torella anticipated that, “The ongoing expansion and intensification of U.S. animal agriculture, along with a rise in animal disease outbreaks, might also mean that we need to learn how to live with the bird flu and the looming threat it poses.”
“Birds Aren’t Real” offers an option
But the “Birds Aren’t Real” concept offers an alternative, even if one does not imagine that every bird’s eyes are relaying information about humans to a bird-headed god who sits in judgement of the human race.
Rapidly advancing vegan food technology now offers taste-alike, look-alike, even smell-alike analogs for every edible product derived from real birds.
The use of feathers in clothing and guano as the source of ammonium nitrate for making munitions largely yielded to synthetic products many decades ago.
Having figured out how to blow ourselves to hell without avian help, humans should be at the point where “Birds Aren’t Real” is reality in food production too.
That should not be nearly as difficult as either purging factory farms of highly contagious avian diseases or purging political discourse of bizarre conspiracy theories.
Laurella Desborough says
When I first heard about these people I didn’t realize it was satire re the various conspiracy theorists. Of course I did know it was nonsense. Once they stated it was satire, then it made sense
However, just an interesting side note. Years ago it seems the feds DID create some bird robots to gather photos, etc. I remember the brief articles with the photos of the tiny fake birds.
A real issue IF such were ever attempted would be the problem with hawks taking them down the way large hawks and eagles are now taking down drones.
Ah what an interesting world we live in!!
Karen Davis says
The comforting claim that birds can die within 30 seconds on being subjected to carbon dioxide poisoning is misleading. Most do not die within 30 seconds or even within 30 minutes. See, for example: https://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/150106_gassing_spent_hens_to_death_with_carbon_dioxide.html
CO2 is a favored method of mass-killing birds in the poultry industry because it is cheap and “easy” to inflict. It produces a slow, agonizing, panic-filled, painful death in the victims, a fact well documented in the poultry science literature.
CO2 is one of the three main methods of mass-exterminating birds in avian influenza epidemics. And contrary to a quoted statement in this article, they are not impersonally “wiped out”: They are deliberately murdered by human beings, not because the birds may be suffering bird flu’s effects, but to protect the poultry industry, which cares nothing about the suffering of its victims.
For a brief, informative overview on Avian Influenza, please listen to my podcast on this topic at
I find the cartoon image of the bloated and disfigured hen and rooster in this article disturbing not only because this is what our species has done to chickens – a morally criminal act of unspeakable brutality – but because it appears to make the suffering the chickens endure being encased in this tortured, alien body a cause for amusement. I see this image as yet another way, however unintended, of humiliating chickens and trivializing their human-inflicted condition, almost like something to snigger over rather than to understand and grieve that we would do such a horrible, evil thing to a fellow creature.
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org
Jamaka Petzak says
At risk of inflaming already enraged members of the public, it’s very possible and probably probable that Jesus wasn’t real, either.
Sharing with gratitude.