Modern Slavery

The Story of Douglas Lupin

—Hippitalists—

Douglas Lupin woke up sweating. 

Another nightmare. Since Lewis Ferguson fell ill, Douggie is living day by day. 

She jumped out of bed flapping her wings to soften the impact. After some digging around and avoiding rooster rape by balancing on the fence, it was time for the daily egg theft.  

The humans dispatched sugary grains to cause chaos, distract the chickens and steal the eggs.

Douglas Lupin was in an existential mood that day. She turned to her best friend Lewis and said:

“We are free range thinking chickens; how did we fall into this new age scheme?”

Lewis was indifferent to all of it. He was sick and urgently needed veterinary attention. The landlord response to his condition was a chest massage. Lewis was a bit confused and traumatised but kept his wit:

“Look Douggie”, he said in a voice fading to a whisper, “We love sugar. That’s the short answer. There’s nothing new under the sun. This is just modern slavery sugar-coated with fancy words like organisational accountability and corporate responsibility. In the end of the day, it is just the same predacious environment our kind have seen for many generations”.

“But what about the new humans Lewis? They seem to visit every day and they are kind to us…”

“They still take our eggs and clip our wings. They are lower down the food chain but still Hippitalists like the landlord”.

“Hippitalists? What is Hippitalists Lewis?”

“Hippitalists are modern hippies who practice capitalism. It is the new age green greed.

The landlord is using other humans as modern slaves by the manufacturing of consent – the landlord, often say they have too much on their plate, multiple properties, children, and well-paid jobs in the city. They say they need high quality people for high quality help in their farm but pay less than half the market value for others to come and work for them. When they can’t think of any jobs, they ask for money.

To get people to agree to the deal, they present it as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, to have a roof and a warm shower, enjoy the garden produce, be a part of something great. The landlord calls it ‘circular economy’, I guess because it goes around in circles – starting from what the landlord wants and ending with the landlord making a profit. In the end, unless there is a disagreement, they all think they are making a good deal, it’s just that the human slaves come from a more economically disadvantaged position to the negotiation table. The landlords use their privilege to exploit poorer people under the banner of help and opportunity, it is the oldest trick in the book.

It is like the oil companies making their logo greener and invest a fraction of their revenue in renewable energy. It is about the optics. It makes people believe there is hope by saying look there – they are the biggest greedy capitalists in the world, but they found a way to be ethical and take responsibility.  

You almost want to volunteer to mine coal for such a benevolent, altruistic organisation – Become a part of the green revolution! help with the climate crisis while we continue to exploit communities and rape the planet.”

—Modern Slavery—

“Slavery is a harsh word, Lewis. Let’s be honest, we both have been happy here until you got sick. We all agreed to this deal, and I can certainly see the benefits – More grains, more fresh grass and water, and someone to clean the shit we sleep in every night. Being a capitalist seem to work for them, and for me, except the eggs and wings thing…I don’t see how it contradicts the hippy values… It is also more spacious than the crowded warehouse I was in before and now we are even better off with the new humans. Yes, I’m annoyed, but I’m not sure why, I agreed to this, I guess I thought they were just hippies, never heard about ‘Hippitalists’. Do we have a hippitalist equivalent in our chicken society?”

“Well, there is the Tasmanian Native Hen, but opinions divide as to whether running really fast makes you a hippie. I mean, they are free to run and almost no one can catch them, but they are always tired, need to gather their own food and risk being a roadkill”.

“They are the true chicken hippies if you ask me, idealistic, but also practice what they preach. They fend for themselves, they are not robbed of their eggs, and they are not dependant on self-proclaimed kind heartedness and generosity of a landlord”.

“The human Hippitalist movement is different, it carries the paradoxical burden of presenting a hippie facade of ‘do-no-harm’ along with excess consumption and competitive spirit that comes with being a successful capitalist”. 

Douglas was aware that to survive independently and still be protected from the falcons, she must give away her freedom to fly and raise offspring. A hefty price to pay, but none of her friends retaliated so she did not complain. The landlords are the ones giving us delicious grains and a place to sleep, we must give something in return. In this way, Douglas convinced herself the deal is fair. 

—Lewis’s Last Wish—

Lewis, on his death bed, warned Douglas to be wary.

“New humans come and go, we sometimes get more care, but it is only a matter of time until this lot is gone, and you are back to sleeping and laying eggs in your own shit pile.

look after your little feet Douggie and run about with the native hens”.

Lewis passed away peacefully, wrapped in a blanket by the fire at the human slave’s hut. The humans cried for him and buried him. Douglas thought that if Lewis could see how the humans cared for him, he would change his mind about modern slavery and Hippitalists ideas. He’ll see the beautiful side of humanity.

Douglas continued to live on the landlord property with little hope for relocating. None of her friends could afford such risky and expensive adventure with no guarantee for a better place. Some of the older hens, have confirmed Lewis’s warnings. They have been through several generations of new humans on the farm, they have seen them come and go and their treatment changes as a result.

Mama chicken often parted her wisdom on to Douglas. She was second generation on the farm and speaks with fond memories about the early days.

“Daily grooming, regular cleaning, leftovers every day, spacious homes, and separation from the rapist roosters. It was every free-range thinking chicken dream”.

Mama’s dream turned into a nightmare when she had to care for nine little chooks who were constantly escaping through holes in the neglected nursery. She told Douglas that the only ones left to care for the chickens were the new human slaves in the little hut, who did the minimum necessary and still stole the eggs. 

As the landlord’s kids grew and trips away became more frequent, the shit started to pile up in the coops, there was no fresh water, food shortages were common, roosters were raping away, and the population grew to unsustainable levels.

Mama called the humans freedom collectors.

“They don’t take your freedom like the old masters, you just wilfully put it on the ground next to you and they will collect it. In return they give you a little bit of hope”.

The freedom collection operation was a prosperous business for the landlord. But owning multiple properties, humans, animals and collecting freedoms did not seem to make the landlords happy. The landlord often complained about being too busy or too stressed. Perhaps afraid of losing control on the operation and being betrayed. As soon as the new human slaves moved to the small hut, a security camera system appeared and visitation was regulated more strictly.

The Landlord was in the big hut mostly in the evenings, they stayed there and left again in the morning and sometimes did not return for several days. About once a week, one of the children would come with a pot full of delicious goods and sprinkle it around but It was mostly the human slaves in the little hut who looked after Douglas daily.

“How did you end up here?” Mama chicken asked Douglas.

“I met them online. Their profile said they needed help and it’s not commercial, relaxed atmosphere, negotiable egg tax etc. It all sounded good, except that the place was as is. They said they are developing it, but no promises were made on how long I could stay, the level of maintenance, there was no condition report or contract that was formally drafted. It was all based on good faith. I guess I’m not complaining because where I come from, sleeping in shit-piles is the least of your problems.”

“You sound like you have seen a lot of suffering little Douglas, I suppose it will not surprise you if I’ll tell you that we tried to protest, and some of the roosters got killed. It’s been quiet since”.

“I think I’m pretty happy here” said Douglas, “but I feel sorry for the horses Mama Chicken”

“Don’t be. Just like you, they had a nasty time before ending up here.

One was a racehorse and the other was a horsepower in a luxury sport car.

For them, overdosing on grass and being left alone is a better life. What you see as cruelty is a life of relative freedom for them.

The dogs told me this. They know everything. Life is not a George Orwell book; in real life we know the dogs come first.”

Douglas started to see that her online fantasy is turning out to be the modern slavery Lewis was talking about before he died. She was fulling the green greed, consented to poor conditions believing that the experience is worthwhile, and now she’s being exploited and can’t even have friends over.

She realised that in the past, slavery was about ripping slaves out of their land and putting them to hard labour with a cruel master, but that modern slavery is based on consent – the slave comes to the master wanting to help while the master controls the conditions of the agreement and changes them to whatever suites them.

Of course, the modern slave is free to go at any time. But both the master and the slave know that freedom is not guaranteed, because when you have too much of it, you can’t sustain it.

Douglas weighted the deal again.

The pros – fresh air and space to roam, rainwater, sugary grains and rolling lush hills.

The cons – isolation, egg tax and wing clipping.

For the landlord the pros were having slaves who do things for them, give them eggs and care for other animals lower down the food chain. For Douglas, it was regulating the slug and worm population near the apple tree.

For the landlord, the single and most destructive downside of having slaves is worrying.

Worrying that one day all those slaves will turn against them, worrying about losing their privilege, worrying about losing control and worrying about being seen as irresponsible by other masters.

The egg tax is a standard thing for everyone except for the tax evaders and native hens. But as time passed, leaving an environment of isolation and wing clipping seemed like the only way forward for Douglas.

She decided that it would be mutually beneficial if she had left – the landlord would have less worries while she will take her chance in the big world. She did not yet make up her mind yet about whether she wanted to have her own farm and employ others in what she believed are fair conditions or try to roam free with the native hens. In any case, now that she had experienced the hypocrisy of the masters, she knows what not to do.

When she finally gathered strength to say she is leaving, the landlord demanded that Douglas would clean the mess of all the other chickens that came before her. Douglas left the coop in a similar condition to how she found it but paid for the cleaning out of the kindness of her heart and from the little saving she had.

The landlord was still unhappy, but Douglas knew they will never be.

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