“A massacre took place in a Canandaigua Academy science classroom Dec. 12, when students were instructed to behead 22 live chickens.” – from Joel Freedman, “Wrong lesson for science class," Letter in the Daily Messenger, Feb 8, 2008.
On December 12, 2007, high school students slaughtered twenty-one chickens as part of an elective classroom exercise in Eric Cosman’s ecology class at Canandaigua Academy in upstate New York. On Dec 10, Joel Freedman, chairman of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York and a UPC member, met with school officials to urge that the chickens be spared to live in a sanctuary. He urged them to be merciful and to teach mercy at school. However, two days later the students slaughtered all of the chickens except one, now named Araminta, who lives at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY.
On Feb 19, the Daily Messenger editorialized in “Lesson from a chicken” that the slaughter was justified if it taught students that “life is not easy.” http://www.mpnnow.com/opinions/x1637128130
On Feb 19, the Daily Messenger also ran UPC President Karen Davis’s letter, “Teach kids something useful, like vegan cooking.” http://www.mpnnow.com/opinions/letters_to_the_editor/x374191450
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Canandaigua, NY 14424
The article about slaughtering chickens at Canandaigua Academy last fall (“Meat isn’t always wrapped in plastic” by Stephanie Bergeron, 02/11/08) reminded me a little of the mainstream coverage of U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq. Everything is pretty upbeat. You’d hardly guess the traumas involved. For that, you have to bypass the conventional packaging of events. “Thinking outside the bun” means more than choosing one fast-food restaurant over another.
As a former classroom teacher, civil rights activist, and juvenile probation officer in Maryland, I know that many young people, faced with adult-sanctioned violence packaged as “necessity, “it’s always been this way,” the victim “doesn’t really suffer,” and so on, are intimidated into compliance at odds with their true feelings and moral impulses.
Thus, while some students may express the trauma they endured in watching a fellow creature be intentionally harmed, most silently carry the burden of a horrible memory of the cruelty they experienced at school. Ironically, some of the loudest defenders of this business are those very people.
Regardless of where one stands on the ethics of slaughtering animals in the classroom, the idea that chickens are “stupid” is false. Chickens are intelligent birds, as avian specialist Dr. Lesley Rogers shows in The Development of Brain and Behaviour in the Chicken, and as I know well from having run a sanctuary for chickens since 1987. Even if chickens were stupid, however, that wouldn’t justify betraying their trust and killing them just to make a point.
In January, I attended a teachers conference in New York City which served delicious vegan “chicken” nuggets made of soy, preceded by a cooking demonstration. Mock meats allow people to enjoy the texture and flavor of meat without the slaughter. People are amazed they’re not eating meat. It would be great if in the future, instead of killing chickens, the classroom course would teach students how to prepare a mock-meat vegan meal, and maybe even set up a vegan cooking contest. That would take the educational experience to another level of adventure, while helping to make the world a better place.
United Poultry Concerns
United Poultry Concerns in Machipongo, Va., is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For information, please visit www.upc-online.org.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.|
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150