By Clare Druce, Founder of Chickens’ Lib
Young People’s Fiction with Illustrations, ages 8-14
Available from United Poultry Concerns: $10.
“To Save (and risk going to jail) or Not to Save: That Is the Question.”
Review by Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
Imagine moving from the city to the country cottage of your dreams only to discover a battery hen business nearby. This is what happens to 12-year-old Paula Brown and her parents in Clare Druce’s riveting tale for young people. It tells what happens when Paula takes a walk one day from Orchard Cottage to Folly Farm to buy eggs. Approaching the farm, she wonders why there are no chickens, cows, or pigs – just a huge Alsatian dog “crouching beside a gloomy kennel.”
What Paula finds instead are ten “bleak rows of sheds” emanating “a musty, sickly sort of smell, unlike anything she knew.” Instead of a “jolly farmer,” out comes snarling Mr. Dredge, who tells her “you’re not wanted here.” Soon he boasts he has a quarter of a million hens inside the ten sheds, “twenty-five thousand per shed.”
Paula talks Mr. Dredge into letting her accompany him into Shed Ten.
“Paula knew she would never forget the moment when she first saw the rows of cages, stacked from floor to ceiling, five tiers high. And she knew she’d never forget the first time she heard the sound of twenty-five thousand hens, all together in one building. It took a few seconds for her eyes to accustom themselves to the gloom, and to realize that the ghostly impression was due to the myriads of cobwebs that hung from the roof girders, and festooned various iron struts and items of machinery. Dusty light bulbs glowed dully the length of the aisle down which Mr. Dredge was leading the way.”
Suddenly she hears a voice from the top cages, imploring: “return, and I’ll fill you in on every single miserable, rotten, cruel aspect of this dismal place! You see,” the voice says, “you can get out of here, but for us, it’s a life sentence.”
“Paula: ‘Who are you?’
Voice: ‘I’m Minny, and I’ve been standing or crouching down on this wire floor for the best part of a year. Yes, I’m Minny, a proud descendant of the Red Jungle Fowl. Say you’ll come back. You see, you’re our only hope.’”
From this point, Paula lives a secret life. She visits Minny and learns about Minny’s life in the battery cage, her “ancestral memories,” and how those memories form Minny’s dream of the future she longs for – “Busy, yet contented.” Minny tells Paula, “The terrible thing about dreaming beautiful dreams is that you have to wake up, and face another day.”
Meanwhile, time flies. The Shed Ten hens are about to go to slaughter. Mr. Dredge tells Paula: “Them hens” are “rubbish.” Paula faces a decision: she “had never gone against her parents’ wishes in anything really important. But here she was, planning to steal three hens! No, not steal, she reminded herself. . . . Perhaps she would be put away, to wherever they put children instead of prison. Perhaps. . . .”
“‘Minny, I’ll have to go,’ Paula hisses when she hears Mr. Dredge coming! ‘But I promise I’ll be back.’”
What happens next? Buy this wonderful book, with its modern moral dilemmas about rescuing suffering animals and breaking the law, and find out. This book is highly recommended. It’s perfect for the intelligent young person in your life and as a gift to the school library.
Order by check or money order for $10 from UPC, PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405, or by credit card at www.upc-online.org/merchandise/humane_child.html.
Clare Druce, the author of Minny’s Dream, is the cofounder of UK-based Chickens’ Lib, the first organization in the world to specialize in exposing the suffering of egg-laying hens,
turkeys, and baby “broiler” chickens in industrial agriculture, and to advocate for “poultry” rights. Clare and Chickens’ Lib
were key factors in my decision to found United Poultry Concerns in 1990, and Clare was, and continues to be, my mentor. Clare’s new book
Chickens’ Lib: The Story of a Campaign
is a compelling, deeply moving, often darkly humorous account of Chickens’ Lib’s 40-year fight for chickens and turkeys against the Powers That
Be, showing what a small group of totally dedicated activists can accomplish.
For my 2014 Review please see
Chickens’ Lib: The Story of a Campaign.
– Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns