Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 14 - Chickens - full transcript

John discusses chicken farming.

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Season 2
Episode 14

Welcome, welcome, welcome
to Last Week Tonight.

Thank you so much
for being with us.

I'm John Oliver. Just time
for a quick recap of the week.

And we start tonight
with the NSA,

the most obnoxious
record collectors

outside of hipsters who insist
that vinyl "sounds warmer."

Last month, you might remember,
we spoke to Edward Snowden

about Section 215
of the Patriot Act,

which authorizes
the Phone Records Program.

It's up for renewal
at the end of May.

And this week, there was some
surprising news.

The big debate over government
surveillance continuing to roil.

The House
passing a measure today

that would effectively stop the NSA's
mass collection of phone records.

Holy shit.

A meaningful bill passing with broad
bipartisan support.

It's like discovering yourself
sexually for the first time.

"I don't know
what this sensation is,

"but I think I like it

and I want it
to happen again."

Yes. The House...

The House overwhelmingly passed
the USA Freedom Act.

It is by no means perfect,

but it does put
some new limits in place

to protect
Americans' privacy.

It now heads to the Senate

where it is opposed
by Mitch McConnell.

But he might be facing
an uphill battle

because members of both parties
support reforming 215,

as do the President,
the Director of National Intelligence,

and a federal appeals court
which recently ruled

the program had never
been authorized by the law,

which is alarming.

It's like finding out

the guy who just gave you
a prostate exam

wasn't a doctor.

"Hey, what's going on here ?

"That is Jim, the janitor
with a latex fetish.

"Get out of here, Jim.
Get out of here.

That's strike two, Jim."

But Mitch McConnell desperately
does not want to change anything,

and instead has offered
the lamest possible plan.

What I would
rather see, George,

is a couple-of-month extension
of the existing program.

A couple of months ?
That's pathetic.

Asking for more time
for no apparent reason

is exactly what you do when you know
you're about to be dumped.

His bill might as well
be called

the Hey, Babe, Can We Talk
About This When Things

Have Died Down At Work A Bit
Act of 2015.

So let's move on to FIFA,

the NFL of actual football.

They are an objectively
appalling organization,

and next week they have
a presidential election.

The most powerful man
in world football,

Sepp Blatter, has said
he will stand for a fifth term

as president of FIFA.

Now if you don't know
who Sepp Blatter is,

think of Roger Goodell.

And now think
of Roger Goodell's asshole.

That is Sepp Blatter.

Because this is a man
who in the past

has suggested increasing the popularity
of women's soccer

by having them wear
tighter shorts,

overseen an organization
that has been plagued

by numerous scandals,
and also did this.

The winner to organize

the 2022 FIFA World Cup

is Qatar !

Yes, on Sepp Blatter's watch,

the World Cup
was given to Qatar,

where temperatures
can reach 120 degrees.

The only place less appropriate
to host a World Cup

would be the actual surface
of the sun.

Although to be fair,
the sun does have

a much better human-rights record
than Qatar does.

And yet, despite all of this,
the crazy thing is,

Sepp Blatter is widely expected
to win reelection,

even though a hairless bear
would do less damage as president.

A hairless bear,
who incidentally,

looks a great deal
like Sepp Blatter.

That's uncanny resemblance.

In fact,
Blatter is so confident of victory,

he has refused to debate
or campaign for reelection.

And this is how he responded
when asked.

My manifesto is the work
I have done

in the last years
in FIFA.

I am now 40 years in FIFA,

and I am 17 years
the president of FIFA.

This is my manifesto.

Listen, Sepp Blatter saying
I stand by my work

is like a puppy standing by
the work it did

after being left alone
in the house for the first time.

"Hey, you've seen
what I can do. I stand by it.

This is my manifesto."

And finally this week,

we turn to Australia,

not just the country
where Russell Crowe lives,

but very much
the Russell Crowe of countries.

Australia is a land
of many exotic animals,

from this weird thing
that shouldn't exist

to this weird thing
that shouldn't exist.

Hey, furry things don't
have bills, you little creep.

Knock it off.

This week, Australia
had some international animal drama.

Hollywood star Johnny Depp
is in trouble

with the Australian government
after they found out

he snuck his two dogs
into the country on his private jet.

This is the house
on Australia's Gold Coast

currently being rented
by Hollywood star Johnny Depp.

And here inside
are two illegal aliens,

Pistol and Boo.

This story is amazing.

It appears
that actor Johnny Depp...

I'm sorry, that's just a fedora
atop a pile of greasy hair.

actor Johnny Depp...

Sorry, that's just a trash bag
full of scarves.

Apparently, actor Johnny Depp
allegedly decided

to bring his two dogs,
Pistol and Boo, to Australia,

where he's currently filming the latest
Pirates of the Caribbean movie,

which I can only assume is entitled
Pirates of the Caribbean,

Did Anyone Actually
Ask For This ?

The problem is,

Australia has strict
customs and quarantine rules

to prevent the spread
of diseases.

You can't just smuggle in
your pets,

which is why Australia's
Minister for Agriculture

Barnaby Joyce
was so angry.

If we start letting movie stars,
even though they've been

"The Sexiest Man Alive" twice,
to come into our nation,

then why don't we just
break the laws for everybody ?

So it's time
that Pistol and Boo

buggered off back
to the United States.

Okay. Okay.

I've got to say,
that's pretty ballsy.

Elected officials
very rarely risk

openly telling puppies
to go fuck themselves.

And, look,
he's not wrong to be angry.

The problem is, he quickly started
to lose the moral high ground.

Now Mr. Depp

has to either take his dogs
back to California

or we're going
to have to euthanize them.

This is... He's now got
about 50 hours left

to remove the dogs.

He gave them
a death countdown.

And this became
such a global sensation,

The Guardian even had a clock
ticking down the seconds

on its website,
which is confusing,

because countdown clocks
are usually for good things.

"Three, two, one, yay !

"Wait, wait, wait.
What are we celebrating again ?

Oh, right,
Johnny Depp's dogs are dead."

The problem is,
for an agriculture minister,

Barnaby Joyce doesn't seem
to be great around animals,

because this
is an actual photo of him

staring menacingly
at an alpaca.

Look at him.
He hates that alpaca.

The amount of loathing
and contempt he feels

for that glassy-eyed
Muppet donkey is incalculable.

And the thing is,
even fellow Australians,

to be fair, felt that Joyce was acting
like a bit of a dick.

"What I'm saying is,
you sound like an absolute clown,

"telling the guy to bugger off back
to Hollywood, or we'll kill his dogs.

"You sound like an idiot.

"You're a government minister,

not some idiot off the street
mouthing off to a news camera.

"Have some decency."

"That's interesting coming from you,
mate, you're the number one..."

"Shut up, Barnaby, you...
You're an absolute joke, Barnaby.

"I'm going off because you sound
like an insensitive wanker."

I am not sure finer words

have ever been spoken
in the English language

than, "Shut up, Barnaby,
you insensitive wanker."

Someone stitch that
onto a throw pillow immediately.

Do it !

But thankfully, with the countdown
clock ticking down,

Pistol and Boo escaped.

Johnny Depp's two terriers
have met their death deadline,

flying out of the country
in a private jet last night.

Australia's minister
of agriculture

tweeted this morning,
"Dogs gone."

You hope
that "dogs gone" means

"Johnny Depp's dogs
have left the country."

But given everything
we've learned so far, it could mean,

"I did it. I killed all the dogs.

I, Barnaby Joyce,
killed all the dogs."

Look, Australia,

I hope that getting
those dogs out was worth it,

because I'm afraid that your minister
has just made this personal,

and America has no choice
but to respond.

Greetings, Australia.

Well, we did what you wanted.

We took
Johnny Depp's dogs back.

But guess what ?

Now we have
some demands of our own.

As of this moment,
you've got 50 hours

to get everything Australian
out of our country or else...

You can start by taking back
all your disgusting Vegemite,

which tastes like a kangaroo
took a salty shit in a jar.

And while you're at it,
come and get every shitty music album

you've ever sent over here,
especially Midnight Oil.

How do we sleep
while our beds are burning ?

Never mind that.

How do you dance
when your legs aren't moving,

you Aussie freak ?

Oh, but Australia,
we're just getting started.

We're also going to need you
to take back Rupert Murdoch

and Mel fucking Gibson.

And, yeah, we know,

Mel Gibson was technically born
in Peekskill, New York,

but you raised him,
so he's your fault.

Just put him in the cargo hold

with the other Australian celebrities
and garbage you've sent our way.

Oh, and as for
Hugh Jackman...

Steppin' out with my baby

Can't go wrong,
'cause I'm in right...

... we're keeping him.

He's delightful.
He can sing, dance,

you think
we're giving this back ?

You're fucking crazy.
Oh, and there's one more thing.

You see this koala joey
at the Los Angeles Zoo ?

You now have 49 hours
and 59 minutes

to get him out of here,
or we'll shoot him

in his adorable face.
Look at him.

He knows
what's about to happen.

Look into his eyes.
That's fear.

Pure koala fear.

Clock's ticking, Aussies.

So hurry up,

because time is running out.

Yipee-g'day, motherfuckers.

Moving on,

our main story tonight
is chickens,

basically turkeys
with eating disorders.

We love eating chicken
in this country,

so much so that we have to
produce a lot of it.

In the last 25 years,

the chicken industry
has doubled its production

and headcount from 80 million
chickens a week

to now about 160 million
chickens a week.

160 million chicks a week.

Those are
Warren Beatty numbers.

Those are Rob Lowe at the
St. Elmo's Fire premiere party numbers.

You know what ? Those are
clean-shaven Leonardo DiCaprio

on a yacht anchored outside
the Cannes Film Festival numbers.

That's a lot of chicks.

That's an unmanageable amount
of chicks.

We eat so much chicken,

it has become
our reference point

for what every other meat
tastes like.

This is pretty good.

I'm telling you, man.
It doesn't taste like lizard.

Tastes like chicken.

Raccoon is a delicacy in China.

I hear it tastes like chicken.

You know what alligator meat
tastes like ? Chicken.

What does it taste like ?
I really hate to say this.

It really tastes like chicken.

Armadillo tastes like chicken ?

Think about that.
That's amazing.

There is no parallel
for the other senses.

If I said to you, "Everything looks
like tables,"

or, "Everything feels
like Koosh balls,"

you'd think I was insane.

Now obviously, all of this
has been great news

for the poultry industry,
which is dominated

by four gigantic companies...

Pilgrim's, Tyson,

and Sanderson Farms.
And I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking, "Oh, this is
just going to be another story

about how horribly
chickens are treated."

And I know
we do hear about that a lot.

Chickens and turkeys
are arguably

the most abused animals
on the face of the planet.

You probably have no idea what goes
into making a bucket of KFC chicken.

Sadly, the main ingredient
is cruelty.

Okay, Pam, look,
let's be fair there.

The main ingredient
in KFC chicken

is not cruelty,
it's chicken.

The only thing where cruelty
is the main ingredient

is Child Stars.

It goes, cruelty, glitter, child,

and then statistically,

And, yes,

chickens no doubt
can be treated terribly.

But that is not
what this story is about.

This is about chicken farmers.

And unfortunately,
this is going to be a lot less pleasant

than what you are looking at
right there.

Poultry companies would have you
believe chicken farmers have it made,

smiling in
their promotional videos,

always, no matter the company,
over the top of jangly guitar music.

It's a good feeling
to have a flock of birds

that are beautiful, healthy.

You know you've done
a good job.

The best product that you could produce
has just left your farm.

If someone
called me up tomorrow

and said, "Would you
be a poultry farmer all over again ?"

I would say, "Yes."

Sometimes I don't understand him
as well as I do the chickens.

Of course you don't.

Your husband is an adult human
with a vibrant interior life

awash in
infinite complexities,

and that
is just a fucking chicken.

So, yes,
it's easier to understand.

But despite those beautifully-produced

it turns out many farmers have
a very different experience.

I've had five heart attacks

since I've been
in the chicken business.

The struggle
has been very real.

And there's been
lots of nights

that we haven't slept.

It is kinda tough.

Not kinda tough.
It is tough.

And is has been tough
for a long time.

Multiple studies have shown
that many growers

whose sole source of income
was chicken farming

live below or near
the poverty line,

which sounds insane.
How can the people

who make the meat
we eat the most

barely be making a living ?

We eat chicken
when it's been popcorned,

when it's been fingered,

and when it's in Disney's
mouse-shaped nuggets,

which, incidentally,
is a little legally suspicious.

"Listen, there might
be mouse in these,

but we technically told you,
so you cannot sue."

This is all thanks

to a system
called "contract farming."

Contract farming
is basically chicken daycare.

Companies bring baby chicks
to an independent farm,

drop them off,
and pick them up

little more than a month later
when they're fully grown.

I'm assuming
that's how daycare works.

97% of chickens
are raised this way.

And when the chicken companies
describe it,

again over jangly
fucking guitars,

they make the system
sound great for farmers.

Tyson Foods actually owns
the feed in the feed bins,

and we actually own
the chickens in the house.

However, the properties,
the equipment,

the labor, everything around
the business on the farm

is actually owned
by the farmer.

You've got to hand it to them.

Jangly guitars simply make
anything sound more plausible.

Here, I'll show you.
Give me some music.

"Mickey Mouse Nuggets
take the finest chicken,

"no mouse, and cover it
with bread crumbs, no mouse.

"Our nuggets are the epitome
of mouse-less chicken.

One mouse."

But... see, it works.

But think about what that guy
actually just said.

You own the property
and the equipment,

we own the chickens.
That essentially means

you own everything
that costs money,

and we own everything
that makes money.

Because typically farmers
go into a great deal of debt

just to build chicken houses
and go into the business.

And the moment
you sign that contract,

the chicken companies
have a lot of leverage over you.

So all those horrible conditions
that chickens are kept in,

farmers might not care
for those either.

Bound by contract,
Craig is not even allowed

to give them sunshine
or fresh air.

If you get
that natural sunlight,

then the bird's more active,
and they don't want that.

They want them sitting down,
getting up, taking a drink,

a bite to eat, and sitting back down.
He gets fat then.

I absolutely would do away
with solid walls.

I would give them
back sunlight.

Letting sunshine and fresh air in
is number one, the birds love it.

And number two,
it's better for me.

Yeah, but of course chicken companies
won't let you do that.

They know that chickens
are like reality stars.

The happier they are,
the less money they're worth.

There is a reason
that E ! canceled

Keeping Up With
Alan And Arlene Alda,

Partners And Best Friends
For 50 Years.

And it's not because Alan
was too good a listener.

And the problem is,

as fast as farmers try
to pay down their debts,

companies can pile more on
by demanding

that they make
expensive upgrades.

The companies on a regular basis
come around and say,

"You have to do this
upgrade or that upgrade."

And if you don't, you're not going
to get chickens anymore.

"You've got to have this.
You've got to have that.

You've got to have this..."
You know.

It started out...
first, it was nipple drinkers.

And then it went
to tunnel houses.

And then it went to blackout curtains
on the south side.

And all this more stuff

ended up costing more
than our original buildings.

And that must be frustrating.

Farming chickens is like
hooking up with James Franco.

"Look, James, first you wanted us
to try nipple drinkers,

"which was weird,
but I put up with it.

"Then it was the tunnel house,
which was even worse.

"And now you want us
to try blackout curtains ?

"No, James, no !
I'm out. We're done, James.

We're done."

So if you think about it,

at this point, a farmer may
have borrowed over $1 million

for houses and improvements.

But they do this
because they're led to believe

that they'll have
a steady source of income.

Except that
they're actually paid

according to a tournament
or gladiator system.

And unfortunately, again,
it is significantly less adorable

than what you are looking at
right here,

because watch
one business journalist explain it.

The company takes,
you know, it could be as many

as 100 farmers in an area,

and then it ranks them
against one another.

Those in the top half
will get a bonus payment, extra money.

Those in the bottom half
will get a deduction,

they'll get
financially punished.

And what that means

is that you are competing
against your neighbors.

If they produce
fatter chickens with less feed,

your pay gets cut,
and not by a little.

You can be paid
nearly half as much

as other growers per pound

for reasons not entirely
within your control.

It's like an agricultural
Glengarry Glen Ross

or "Hengarry Hen Ross,"
if you will.

"ABC. A - always, B - be,
C - clucking !

Do it !"

And I do not apologize
for that joke.

I stand by it.

I stand by that... no, no, no.

You had your chance.
You didn't get onboard.

And, look,
losing a tournament

and being labeled
a bad grower

cannot just cost farmers
their home,

it can cost them
a lot more.

This past Monday morning
in North Carolina,

one of these bad growers
went out,

drove down a country road.

He was terminated
from his contract,

about to lose his home,

took a gun
and ended his life.

That's what we're talking
about here today.

This is personal.

It gets real
for poultry growers.

At this point, you may be angry
at the chicken industry.

But careful,
you need to leave a little room

'cause you're about to
get even angrier.

A chicken industry spokesman
was actually asked

about why so many farmers
live below the poverty line,

and this was his response.

Which poverty line
are you referring to ?

Is that a national
poverty line ?

Is that a state poverty line ?

Poverty line in Mississippi
and Alabama

is different than it is
in New York City.

What the fuck
are you talking about ?

It doesn't matter.

The poverty line
is like the age of consent.

If you find yourself
parsing exactly where it is,

you've probably already done something
very, very wrong.

And the thing is,

chicken farmers
can't even complain.

Because one of the reasons
that you've not heard about this story

is that to hear
farmers tell it,

companies take a hard line
with complainers.

Every time that I've spoken out
against the poultry companies

and the wrongdoings,
they retaliate

by cutting my pay,
cutting my chickens back,

cutting the quality
of my chickens that I get.

They're ranked one through 10.

Number one
is the best chicken they got,

number ten
is the poorest chicken coming off.

Sometimes based
on your mouth,

you'll get a lot of eight,
nine, and ten chickens.

Holy shit.

When controlling assholes
threaten their dependents

with numerically
inferior chicks,

that's not
a responsible business model,

that is Entourage.
That's what that is.

"Hey, if you ding
my Benz, brah,

"I'll have every girl in LA
avoid your dick

like it's
a fucking carbohydrate."

Can't wait for the movie.
I cannot wait for the movie.

It's gonna be sick.

It's gonna...
"The boys are back.

The boys are back.
The boys are back !"

And remember,

if you're given
inferior chicks,

you are going to suffer
in the tournament

and potentially
lose your farm.

Now the chicken companies
claim that they don't do that,

although I will note

that in researching
this story,

we've spoken
to a lot of farmers

who believe it to be real
and are terrified

of it happening to them.

A few years ago,
the Obama administration

tried to address
many of these problems

with new regulations.
They held town hall meetings,

and there was something
of a common theme.

Let me say
that numerous growers

are not attending
these workshops

because of being afraid of retaliation
on them by their integrator.

In the last 48 hours,

we've had growers
who have been threatened

not to attend this meeting
and not to speak out.

I represent
or help represent

650 chicken growers
in the state of Alabama.

And out of all the 650 of them,

there's two that was not afraid
to come up here.

I'm not saying I'm brave.

I'm saying I'm not...
I'm a proud American,

I'm a veteran,
and I need the right

to be able to talk
to y'all today.


... that is an impressive man.

Now if you worked
for the chicken industry,

you would have to
be an idiot

to stand up
in that room

and try
to defend your behavior.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I present to you an idiot.

Five years ago,
knowing what you know,

or at least I think
you must have known,

why would you
get into a business

that you feel,
at least from your comments,

is not a very good business ?


"Why did you let us
fuck you over ?"

is not a defense
against fucking people over.

It just isn't.

And luckily, there was a farmer
in that very room

who was happy
to explain things to him.

My comment is directed
towards the gentleman

that said he wondered
why Valerie Ruddle

got into the business.

I can tell you the reason

why she got into it

is the company lied.

When you put numbers down
on a piece of paper

to get the bankers
to loan you the money,

and then
it don't follow through,

how do you
make bank payments ?

We've heard a lot
of information here today,

and I really didn't want
to get up here and speak.

But we really need
these rules.

And we need 'em quick.

"We need rules

and we need them quick."

You know
this guy is serious

because he's talking like someone
who just caught his roommate

in the living room.

"House meeting !
House meeting !

"I know it's just
the two of us,

"but, Greg,
this needs to stop.

"House meeting now !

"Strike four, Greg !

Strike four on you,
Greg !"

Now the good news is,

protective rules
for poultry farmers

did actually get written.
The bad news is,

they are not currently
being enforced

because every year
since the rules were written,

a rider has been inserted into
the Agriculture Appropriations bill

that explicitly forbids
the USDA

from enforcing them.
And in recent years,

this effort
has been championed

by Representative
Steve Womack.

So why does he do this ?
Who knows ?

Maybe it's because
his home district

is the site of Tyson's
world headquarters.

Or the fact
that he's received

tens of thousands of dollars
in campaign contributions

from chicken companies.

Or maybe he's just sexually attracted
to chickens

and is jealous that farmers
get to spend so much time with them.

I don't know.
I'm speculating here.

The point is, he has fought efforts
to protect farmers.

Just last year,

Representative Marcy Kaptur

attempted to pass
an amendment

simply giving farmers
protection to speak out

without retaliation.
That was it.

And she made
a convincing case.

The Department of Agriculture
wants to enforce these regulations

so that farmers
have standing,

and that they don't have
their livelihoods taken away from them

simply because they're allowed to speak
about their conditions.

What is wrong with that ?

And what is wrong with that is that
the companies in this situation

have too much power.
Those doing the work in these houses

don't have enough power.

We need to give them equal standing
in the courts and in their ability

to come and see us and exercise
their rights of free speech.

Please support
this amendment.


Wow, that is,
that is the kind of speech

that normally
has soaring music behind it

and precedes a come-from-behind victory
at the end of a movie.

But in real life,

this is what happened
immediately afterwards.

Please support this amendment.

Question is on
the Kaptur amendment.

- All in favor, say aye.
- Aye.

- All opposed will say no.
- No.

The "no"s seem to have it.

That is
the most depressing ending

since the Sex and the City movie.

"Oh, Big, Carrie ? Big ?

You're better
than that, Carrie.

If anything, you should have ended up
with Aidan.

Yes, yes.

Yes, Aidan was boring,

But guess what ?
So are you.

So are you, Carrie."

And look, I know this story
has been depressing,

and you might be wondering
what you can do.

I mean, you could
stop eating chicken.

But you're not
going to do that,

because chicken is delicious.
I'm getting hungry

just thinking about it now.

It tastes like armadillo.

You could say,

"Well, I'll vote against
Congressman Steve Womack,"

but you won't
because you don't live there.

And also,
for the last two elections,

he has had
no major opponent.

The only small satisfaction
I can give you

is letting Sean Connery
voice your feelings about Womack.

Womack !

Why am I not surprised,
you piece of shit.

Yeah, that helps a bit.

It helps a little bit.

It gives you a momentary
visceral satisfaction,

but it doesn't really
change anything.

But the truth is, there is actually
a glimmer of hope.

That same committee is set
to meet again next month,

and Marcy Kaptur
might again

try to pass a provision
protecting farmers from retaliation.

And if she does,
then let me use

the chicken companies' weapon
against them.

I'm talking, of course,
about jangly guitar music

to convince you that everything
I'm about to say is true.

Because listen to this.

There are 51 voting members
on the committee.

These are their names
and their states.

If your representative's name
is up there,

and they vote against
Marcy Kaptur's amendment,

it is because they,

and I cannot stress this enough,

are chicken fuckers.

They fuck chickens.
That's what they do.

Every day,
every which way.

And unless they want
that "chicken fucker" label

to follow them
for the rest of their lives,

they might want to think
extra carefully

about which way
they are going to vote.

Because "chicken fucker"

do not come off
a Wikipedia page easily.

Or if they do,

they tend to go
right back up.

Because chicken companies
may be able

to retaliate against farmers
for speaking out,

but they cannot prevent us,
as one,

from screaming "chicken fucker"
at the top of our lungs

if any of these people
vote against the farmers

in this tiny,
tiny amendment.

All potential
chicken fuckers here.

Don't be one of them.
That's all we're saying.

That's our show.
We are off next week.

But we'll be back
the week after that.

Good night !


Season 2
End of episode 14