Rep. Mike Moon had processed about 20 chickens, with another 30 to go, when the idea came to him.
The Republican state representative from Ash Grove, Mo., decided he would send a message to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens about respecting state lawmakers in a most unusual way: by severing the head of a live chicken and posting video of the decapitation on social media.
Weeks earlier, the newly elected Republican governor had chided lawmakers for failing to pass legislation during the state’s annual legislative period and referred to lawmakers as “career politicians” whose “summer vacations” he planned to cancel with a special session, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Moon was annoyed by the governor’s language. But as a staunch antiabortion politician, he was even more frustrated by something else: the abortion-related legislation to be reviewed in the special session added restrictions to abortion clinics in Missouri but none of them attempted to ban the practice entirely.
The special session was a waste of everyone’s time and money, Moon thought, as he spent an early morning of killing chickens on his 125-acre farm.
That’s when he decided to film a video.
“God gave us man dominion over life,” Moon said on camera moments after he sliced a bird’s head off with a knife, causing the animal’s wings to flap erratically. “He allows us to raise animals properly and care for them and then process them for food so we can sustain life. And that’s what I’m doing here with this chicken. So we’ve been called back to this special session for the primary purpose of supporting life, protecting the unborn specifically.”
“I think we need to get to the heart of the matter here,” he added before pulling the bird’s heart out of its body.
You can see the video below. Viewer discretion is advised.
To some critics, the slaughter was interpreted as convoluted metaphor that was meant to send women a menacing message about abortion. For others it seemed sadistic, strange and violent — and enough for one activist to call for the lawmaker’s arrest.
Back at his modest family farm, Moon — who also owns 80 cattle and a flock of chickens and goats — told The Washington Post he never intended to upset or scare anyone; he just wanted to give the governor a window into his bloody, labor-intensive “summer vacation,” he said.
“I was working my vacation job — and it wasn’t a vacation,” said Moon, who was elected in 2013. “As I was processing the chickens I became so perturbed by the governor’s uncalled for remarks that I got a camera together and had someone film me processing one of the chickens. It was primarily a jab back at the governor to say, ‘This is my full-time job, and yet, because I am a full-time official, when you call me back to the legislature I’m going to go.’”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Not everyone got the message, which has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook.
“What does a sociopath need to do to become an elected official?” Johnny Nance wrote under Moon’s Facebook post. “Ask this guy. He seemingly knows.”
“So to demonstrate you’re ‘pro life,’ you take a life,” Justin Armhein added. “Yeah, that makes perfect sense.”
“I’m assuming all those repulsed over the chicken are vegetarians,” Celeste Youngblood wrote. “Where do you think chicken comes from? The chicken fairy? Thank you for understanding that women can have control over their lives without sacrificing the lives of their unborn, Mr. Moon.”
Greitens called the latest special session for Missouri lawmakers to enact new abortion regulations and repeal a St. Louis ordinance that “bans employers and landlords from discriminating against women who have had an abortion, use contraceptives or are pregnant,” according to the Kansas City Star.
Moon is not alone in voicing frustration about the special session, the second the governor has called since the legislative session ended last month. Some lawmakers have accused the governor of abusing his power and bolstering his conservative credentials at their expense.
“I don’t think we should be here,” state Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) told the Post-Dispatch. “It’s certainly clear the governor doesn’t have any respect for this process.”
“Are we lemmings?” state Sen. Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) said to the paper. “What we should be doing is telling this governor ‘No.’ ”
Moon — who believes states have no obligation to follow Roe v. Wade — said the proposals to be debated during the special session don’t do enough to end abortion.
“The heart of the matter is that we’re falling way short of what the Republican platform calls for — to put an end to abortion,” Moon said. “I think it’s high time that we challenged the Supreme Court decision of 1973.”
Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told The Post that Moon was engaging in “theatrics” that were meant to distract from his extreme effort to outlaw abortion in the state of Missouri. As a woman who has had an abortion, she said, the video comes across as intimidating and demoralizing, but she acknowledged that if Moon wants to kill chickens in the privacy of his home, he has every right to do so.
“He routinely compares abortion to the Holocaust and slavery and this is another example of him grandstanding in a disturbing and dangerous way,” Dreith said. “Furthermore, this special session is all about the governor’s political ambitions. He wants to be able to tell any future adversaries that he called his general assembly in the summer to pass all of thee special abortions restrictions so he’ll have his conservative credentials.”
— NARAL (@NARAL) June 13, 2017
Reached by email, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk called for the lawmaker’s arrest.
“Torturing a living being to death is an act associated with a disturbed mind,” she said. “This is cruelty to animals and he should be arrested.”
Moon said he mentioned abortion in his message, but his political views on the practice had little do with the video’s central message. He said he suspects that for people who aren’t familiar with how chickens are slaughtered the video might seem “a little bizarre or drastic.”
“The reality is our food is slaughtered,” he said. “I didn’t mean for it to be demoralizing in any way. It was just something that I was in the middle of and I wasn’t going to go shower or change clothes.”
Greitens has called two special sessions since the 163-member Missouri House adjourned in May, according to the Kansas City Star, which noted that the Missouri House estimates special legislative sessions cost $50,000 to $100,000 a week.
Moon called the expenses “an unnecessary waste of tax dollars.”
The Post-Dispatch reported that pressure mounted for the special sessions after legislators failed to pass a series of “high-profile initiatives,” such as a bill to repeal the prevailing wage and place new restrictions on abortion clinics.
Moon’s latest bill — House Bill 1014, known as the Never Again Act — requires the Missouri state museum to put together a display that shows “all the tools used in abortion procedures,” Moon said.
“It’s horrendous that these procedures actually are taking place,” he said in a video he posted online to promote the bill. “Many people don’t understand exactly what happens.”