United Poultry Concerns March 11, 2003
An Open Letter to President Bush from United Poultry Concerns

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150 Machipongo, Virginia 23405
Ph: 757-678-7875 Fax: 757-678-5070
Website: www.UPC-online.org

March 11, 2003

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. Bush:

As you know, the first group of chickens intended to be placed on vehicles to detect deadly chemicals in Iraq have died of unknown causes resulting in the use of chickens reportedly being suspended. We ask that you permanently cancel the use of chickens to detect deadly chemicals and replace them with sophisticated chemical detection systems.

Making these birds participate in our wars is not only cruel and unjust; it is a betrayal of the men and women who are serving under you. Under the stress of battle, causes of the birds’ death, which may or may not be from toxic chemical exposure, will not be identified quickly enough or with sufficient accuracy to enable the soldiers to put on their gas masks at the crucial moment. Soldiers in the Gulf War panicked when sentinel chickens died of the cold in a sudden temperature drop. A genuine commitment to saving American troops will not be achieved with cages full of terrified chickens dying from innumerable indeterminate causes including starvation, dehydration, and neglect.

If they are so used, many of the chickens will die of stress simply in being driven across a war-torn desert. They will die of hunger, thirst, and oxygen deficiency. The chickens reported dead in Kuwait last week were delivered to the 7th Regiment tightly packed in boxes. They appear to have suffocated to death and probably also died from lack of food and water while packed inside those boxes. The Regiment told the press: “Nobody knows why they died . . . And it didn’t help that nobody here really knows anything about chickens.” This does not bode well from a purely military standpoint in addition to being completely inhumane.

We regard the use of chickens to detect deadly chemicals as a diversion for public and media entertainment that is more likely to cost human lives than to save them. The only other excuse for putting chickens in this predicament is Cheapness, not only of sentiment but financial expenditure. Discussions about “going to any expense to save American troops” veer bizarrely into a defense of using chickens instead of sophisticated chemical detection systems because “chickens are cheap.” If I were a soldier, I would not like to think that my survival was being toyed with by my government to provide comic relief to the public or to cut corners. It is not only animal rights advocates who should loudly demand an end to this irresponsible farce but every citizen and soldier.

We accordingly request that you use your presidential power to halt the use of chickens as chemical sentinels in this war and in all other wars over which you may regrettably preside. If this Administration cannot make peace with other countries, it can at least protect American soldiers as much as possible by installing high-tech chemical detection systems that actually work and that soldiers can understand, operate, and respond to in an emergency. You can exercise some practical compassion for the soldiers and for the birds. Your own eloquent speech writer, Matthew Scully, the author of the book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, has observed in that book that “When substitute products [and technologies] are found, with each creature in turn, responsible dominion calls for a reprieve. . . . What were once ‘necessary evils’ become just evils” (p. 43).

Please put this advanced ethical perception into practice instead of relying on systems of death detection that, from a strictly practical standpoint, are on a par with using flint stones instead of computers with which to communicate.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your response.


Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org


United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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