Welcome to Fantasy Chicken Island

This vegan is stuck on a hypothetical island with a chicken to determine how hypocritical I am. Let’s play!

Dear omnivores of the world,

Happy New Year! Is it too late after January 1 to say that? I hope not. 2020 was a doozy and 2021 is shaping up to be, um…memorable, but, hey, it’s still a fresh year and in the spirit of new beginnings, there’s a little something I’d like to get some clarity on.

I just have to ask: What is it about you and your obsession with deserted islands with chickens and a single hungry vegan on it? Or sometimes it’s pigs instead of chickens, but either way, it’s weird already.

One of the things you may not realize as a meat-eater is that your people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get vegans to imagine living on a desert island. Not just because our presence creates a buzzkill at every BBQ but because you just seem to really want to want us to spend time envisioning a hypothetical situation, namely what we would do if we were stranded on a deserted island with a chicken.

Coincidentally enough, as a child of the 1970s, I spent a fair amount of time contemplating what it would be like to be stranded on an island because of a terrible/beloved TV sitcom I watched with rapt attention, specifically the one named after a hapless but lovable first mate, the Isle of Gilligan. I imagined what kind of variety show I’d put on as the castaways seemed to be really taken with them (hey, you’d be bored, too), and I intuitively grasped the concept of “suspension of disbelief” due to Thurston and Lovey Howell packing as much as they did for a three-hour tour. I didn’t really think about being stranded with a chicken, though. It was a failure of my imagination. Perhaps if I had, I’d be better prepared for the onslaught of moral questions I’d get once I went vegetarian at 15, especially this one about chicken island. Once I went vegan, this question started being pitched at me at an even more astonishing rate. Seeing as I’ve never been the seafaring type, I found the setting hard to accept, though I have gotten myself into some jams before, so, whatever. I will accept it.

“What if you are stranded on an island with just a chicken? Would you eat the chicken?”

Before I could answer this question, though, I have always had a few questions of my own to ask. It’s only fair. I’m not even going to ask the obvious, like how did I get on this island and how did I get on this island with a chicken? (Were we shipwrecked together or was the chicken already there? Never mind.) I’d like to know if I have matches or a lighter that are still functional after I’ve found myself on an island? Is there wood? Perhaps because I never made it past Brownies into Girl Scouts, I don’t know how to start a fire on my own other than I know that I am supposed to, like, rub sticks together vigorously but since I can tell you with 98% certainty even if I do so, it will not result in a fire, I need to know what happens if I don’t create a fire. So I am just staring at a chicken and he or she is staring back at me and I am supposed to eat a raw chicken to stave off starvation for a bit? How is this supposed to work exactly?

Next, I need to know a little more about the island itself: Are there trees bearing fruit, you know, like the coconuts that always fell on Gilligan’s head? Does anything grow there? Because if fruit trees can grow, I guess I will finally become a fruitarian and live to 113 while still looking 27 on my stupid desert island with my washboard abs and flawless skin and be really bummed that no one is around to give me any compliments. And if I have a knife of some sort for taking a chicken’s life, it would probably work just as well on chopping fruit and no fire would be required, thus I won’t feel like a failure after three days of rubbing together sticks to create a spark of some sort that could eventually lead to a fire. (And you know I won’t be able to contain that fire and I’ll end up in the water with the sharks and the chicken will be watching me from the horizon as I’m circled by fins — but, oh wait — the island is on fire now so now we’re both screwed just because I needed a fire to cook a chicken. You all really screwed me over with your hypothetical island.) So fine: I will just eat the fruit — I like fruit! — and hope that mango is among them. I think I’ll be fine here with my fruit.

Is there no fruit? This is your hypothetical scenario. Okay. I can’t imagine one would get many meals from one shipwrecked chicken. So I could live for maybe a few days off of a dead chicken’s corpse and then I’d begin to starve, right? If I can only live for a short time off a chicken’s corpse while I’m being baked by the sun without my beloved sunblock or my big, floppy hat, I think I’d rather just, you know, die than kill a chicken. In fact, I know I would. Further, I’m guessing I am surrounded by salt water? Hydration is going to be a much more pressing need that will go unmet than hunger.

Based on all this, I can say with confidence that I will live and die a vegan on your hypothetical island with a hypothetical chicken, with or without hypothetical vegetation. But now I have some other, non-island related questions for you.

1. Do you live on land?

2. What is the likelihood of you ever becoming stranded on a desert island to begin with, let alone stranded with a chicken? (According to The Straight Dope, pretty much nil, even more unlikely with a chicken.)

3. Presuming that you do live on land, there is soil, water, sunlight, correct?

4. And those factors support growing plants, fruits, grains, etc.?

5. I will further go out on a limb and guess that there are grocery stores, markets, growers, and so forth that sell produce and a form of currency with which one can purchase it?

6. And there is soil in which you can possibly grow your own? Correct?

7. There is a distribution system for access to food that has been grown?

I am going to guess that you live in an environment the supports consuming foods of a non-animal-origin and that even if you don’t live near a grocery store, it is far more likely that you have access to a diverse variety of plant foods than I finding myself on a desert island with a chicken, correct? And this is a choice that you can make every day, not just an imaginary scenario constructed out of thin air that does not reflect the reality of our circumstances. You can live a healthy life that doesn’t necessitate the death of innocent beings yet you would rather focus on what I might do on a desert island with a chicken? Because of your insistence on this island, I know that your scenario is rooted in an island show of a certain vintage: Fantasy Island. This line of questioning was never really about chickens and islands, this is about exaggerating the hypocrisy that you know is in me, driven by your unwillingness to ask honest, penetrating, meaningful questions of yourself.

I live in the here and now. The choices that we make in this reality matter far more than any imaginary island with a chicken. What are we doing — in the here and now — to live in alignment with our values and reduce our footprint on the environment? This is what matters.

(And, in case you hadn’t noticed, I answered your question: Viva la chickens, even the hypothetical ones!)

xo -


Marla Rose is a Chicago-area writer and co-founder of VeganStreet.com and VeganStreetMedia.com.

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