Student INTERVIEW with Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns

In March, a 7th grade student in Colorado asked United Poultry Concerns for an interview for a class project at her school. In this project, she explained in an email, “the students find a passion of theirs and either inform others or find a solution and put it into action. If students are feeling up for the challenge, they are encouraged to do both.”

Q. What is your view on the current situation of farmed animal welfare?

A. For billions of farmed animals on the planet, there is no “welfare.” To have welfare means to fare well. When we think of welfare this way, we realize how far removed the rhetoric is from the reality. The majority of animals raised on land and forced out of water for “food” are miserable. Chickens, for example, who evolved in the tropical forests of southeast Asia, are crowded and confined in filthy dark sheds filled with excrement and toxic gases. They are genetically manipulated for flesh and eggs at the expense of their happiness and wellbeing.

Fish are pulled out of the water to suffocate slowly to death because they cannot breathe out of water. Mutilation of farmed animals is basic to animal farming: debeaking, detoeing, tail docking, the list goes on. Unlike us, these animals never receive painkillers when their body parts are cut off or burned off.

The suffering of farmed animals is receiving much more attention now than it did twenty years ago. Legislative campaigns, undercover investigations, books, animal advocacy organizations including farmed animal sanctuaries, and the internet – all are contributing to wider public knowledge of how horribly animals are made to suffer for products that we do not need to eat or drink or feed to children in order to be healthy and productive individuals.

Q. What is your background with animal abuse and welfare?

A. I tell my story in “From Hunting Grounds to Chicken Rights: My Story in an Eggshell.” in Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice, edited by Lisa Kemmerer, University of Illinois Press. This book of engaging personal narratives by women activists is available from United Poultry Concerns.

Q. What animals are in most danger at this time?

A. All animals on the planet are in danger of one or more of these: Extinction, Incarceration, Habitat Loss, Family and Social Disruptions, Genetic Pathologies. Animals from tigers to tortoises are in danger of extinction particularly due to the destruction of their habitats as well as to the poisons we put into the environment that destroy their ability to produce healthy offspring. When animals lose the homeland they need in order to thrive, raise their families, and feed themselves, they die out.

Putting a few specimens of these animals in zoos is a fate worse than death for them. We are destroying the rainforests in which countless numbers of creatures live in ecological vibrancy, all for the sake of animal consumption. Our behavior toward the earth and its creatures may be “legal”; but by any sane, ethical standard, it is criminal and immoral.

Instead of extinction, farmed animals suffer the opposite fate. They are forced, through artificial and obscene breeding procedures, to endure endless proliferation. The healthy and fit condition these animals evolved in nature to enjoy has been degraded and defiled against their will by humans, causing them to suffer from diseases they did not experience until they were “domesticated.”

Q. What would solve the problem?

A. The solution would be a transformation of human attitudes and behaviors toward the world we share with the other occupants of our planet. As long as we pride ourselves on being OMNIVORES – devourers of everything – the earth will continue to degrade. Our consumer behavior is causing Global Warming, Species Extinctions, Habitat Erosion, Environmental Depletion, Animal Agony, and more. Our consumer behavior proliferates garbage and toxic waste across the planet into the depths of the oceans and the air we breathe.

Unless we choose to respect and cherish the world we live in, the problems we are causing will grow. A question is whether we have the capability and the will to develop mentally, emotionally and spiritually, or whether we are doomed to repeat our destructive patterns, over and over, including the rationalizations that perpetuate these patterns.

Q. What steps can we take to make the world a better, happier place?

A. We can choose to buy and eat foods that are animal-free. Animal agribusiness is a major cause of global warming, and regardless of how animal products are labeled to pacify people, the animals embodied in these products were, and are, raised and killed inhumanely, stripped of their dignity.

We can use cloth and canvas shopping bags instead of plastic bags. We can make every effort to reuse and recycle (especially reuse) materials instead of throwing everything away and buying new stuff all the time. Instead of viewing ourselves as consumers first and foremost, we can think of ourselves and act like a Citizen: a citizen of the earth as well as of our community.

We can choose courage over conformity. We can stand up for animals and the planet, for all who are vulnerable, suffering, and mistreated. We can teach by setting our best example in our daily life.

Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns, March 17, 2017

Drawing of hen holding book and reading to chicks