“The Social Network,” the origins of Facebook movie that’s still No. 1 at the U.S. box office, has an interesting animal rights sub-plot. Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin is accused by the Harvard undergraduate student newspaper, the Crimson, of animal cruelty for feeding chicken to a live chicken he was with in a Harvard dining hall. Cannibalism and cruelty, it’s said the paper charged. Why was Saverin carrying a chicken in the first place? It was required as a hazing ritual by an exclusive “finals club” he wanted to join. (There’s some footage in the film of the chicken, likely a “Rhode Island Red,” clucking in a cage in Saverin’s dorm suite after the supposed episode.)
Later in the film, the main character (the he shall remain nameless Facebook founder) complains about the negative publicity Saverin’s action has caused the nascent company. Animal cruelty, he says, is seen as more of a social stigma than necrophilia. Let’s hope so. Two ironies: despite the outrage over Saverin’s supposed actions (it’s not clear if he really did feed the chicken chicken in the film and in real life he wasn’t named in the Crimson article) factory-farmed chickens routinely are fed by-products of the meat industry, including chicken parts. “Cannibalism” is rarely charged. It’s seen as business and something most people don’t want to ask too much about. The other? The episode isn’t, I’ve read, historically accurate…although apparently the finals club hazing rituals have included torturing and killing chickens – as well as carrying them around campus for days at a time.