Volunteer(s) Urgently Needed to Videotape "Chicken Drop" in Ridgeland, Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb. 18, Noon. Where: Corner Store, 102 Tonnar Street South in Ridgeland See 2004 article at: http://www.thepearsonplace.com/articles.php?id=16
On Monday, Feb. 13, UPC posted a News Release
(http://www.upc-online.org/nr/21306chickenflying.html) about an annual "chicken drop" as part of a Pioneer Day celebration in Ridgeland, WI (a tiny community in northern Wisconsin). The exchange below between Animal Law Associates of Wisconsin and Dunn County DA James M. Peterson explains the situation to date. One or more volunteers are URGENTLY NEEDED to videotape this chicken drop tomorrow. Please Help If You Can!
United Poultry Concerns
Hi, District Attorney Peterson:
Thank you for investigating this issue and for responding so quickly to both my initial call and to my request for an update. I greatly appreciate it.
I understand your position, but I ask that you reconsider the definition of "cruel" before you determine that this activity is not cruel. Specifically, according to WSA 951.01, cruel means "causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death." For me, the operative word is this instance is "unnecessary." I don't wish to second guess your secretary's statement that chickens can fly up and roost on rafters 14 to 16 feet high; however, I think that this is besides the point. After all, flying up, roosting, and even laying eggs at a particular height is very different from being thrown from that height. The very act of being thrown subjects these animals to unnecessary suffering in terms of the fear that they experience. Moreover, while the statutory definition doesn't require pain ("pain or suffering"), the likelihood of pain is quite high. Being thrown from a height of 8 feet places the chickens in a position where they could be injured either when thrown (what if they resist and injure themselves?), when caught (I can easily imagine injury caused by a rough catch), or when they hit the ground if not caught.
In addition, WSA 951.15 prohibits any person from abandoning animals. Internet and radio sources associated with last year's "event" indicate that at least one chicken was not caught and, indeed, roamed around the town for weeks afterward. Was this animal not abandoned? Also, I wonder whether Dunn County/Ridgeland permit unenclosed/free range poultry to wander about the town. Many local ordinances prohibit such activity (we were unable to determine whether Dunn County/Ridgeland specifically did because we could not locate your ordinances online and the county clerk, when called, was not cooperative).
Although chickens meet the statutory definition of animals, it is sometimes harder for people to conceptualize that these animals are capable of experiencing pain and suffering to the extent of companion animals. I mention this because I doubt we would be having this exchange if it were cats or dogs that your constituents wished to subject to unnecessary suffering and pain. I am copying reporter Meagan Frank in the hopes that her paper will address this issue.
I believe that what is going to happen in Ridgeland tomorrow does constitute mistreatment, even if it is the sanitized version that you present (internet and radio sources indicate that the wings are clipped, etc.) I ask that you reconsider your stance. The event is completely unnecessary -- the residents of Ridgeland can easily celebrate Winter Pioneer Day without mistreating animals.
Attorney Anne Daugherty-Leiter
Animal Law Associates of Wisconsin, LLC
This is what I have learned. Lt. Gunness assigned Inv. Brad Leach of the Dunn County Sheriff's Department to look in to the matter per my request. I learned from Inv. Leach that there is no actual committee or particular person in charge of this annual activity. He advised that the chickens' wings are not clipped. The chickens are thrown off of an 8' foot building and then people try to catch them and the people get to keep the chickens they catch. The chickens are donated and it is unknown how many chickens will be involved.
One of our secretaries raises chickens and advised that their chickens are able to fly up and roost on rafters 14' - 16' high and that some times eggs are laid on rafters that high. She also told me that an 8' foot drop for chickens would be like stepping off a curb for a person. In other words, it would not be difficult for chickens to deal with 8' foot heights.
I have been further advised that it is not uncommon for chickens to be chased as part of the harvesting process for those chickens that would ultimately meet their demise in the food chain.
I have concluded that, based on the information that we have, what occurs in Ridgeland annually as part of their Winter Pioneer Days is not mistreatment as I understand it. (Mistreatment involves "cruelty" under s.951.01(2), "'cruel' means causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death."
Therefore, we will not be seeking injunctive relief in connection with this matter based on the circumstances as they exist at this time.
I would encourage you to contact those persons who have complained about this activity and suggest that they go to Ridgeland and observe what actually occurs (photograph it, video tape it, or whatever) and make a complaint to the Dunn County Sheriff's Department if they believe that mistreatment actually occurs. However, if the activity involves what has been indicated by Inv. Leach, it would not be mistreatment. My understanding is that this would be occurring at around noon on Saturday, February 18, 2006.
If you have verifable information that contradicts what I have learned from the Sheriff's Department please advise.
James M. Peterson Dunn County District Attorney
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150