|Idaho School Arms Children with Knives to Kill Chickens
“This poultry project, or food unit, is a
wonderful example of experiential learning.”
- Andy Jones-Wilkins, Headmaster
“Jones-Wilkins was responding to criticism from United Poultry Concerns, a Virginia-based animal protection organization that condemned the project after it was publicized in the Idaho Mountain Express in November and more recently in December in a letter to Jones-Wilkins.” - Terry Smith, Idaho Mountain Express, December 18, 2009
(Our letter to the headmaster and related coverage can be read at www.upc-online.org/classroom/.)
On November 2, 2009, thirty-one 8th-grade students at The Community School, a private K-12 school in Sun Valley, Idaho, slaughtered sixteen seven-week-old chickens they had raised since September 17. They stuffed the birds upside down in killing cones they made in class and cut their throats. They then served the chickens at a “good foods” banquet. According to the Idaho Mountain Express (Nov. 11), “After raising the chickens, many students had qualms about actually killing the birds, but they carried out the deed anyway.” (Student participation was optional; some brave souls refused.)
Photo: Idaho Mountain Express
In an email to UPC, Naomi Goldberg, one of the teachers responsible for the project, put the burden of the killings on the 14-year-olds: “While debriefing our [food] unit, many students expressed a strong belief that raising and slaughtering our own chickens was a crucial part of their learning about food and sustainability. They felt that the experience connected the classroom learning to the reality of the world.”
UPC president Karen Davis published a letter in the Idaho Mountain Express on Nov. 18. She explained that immobilizing the chickens in killing cones added to the terrible death they endured because, in excruciating pain, the birds could not even thrash as they otherwise would have done, which would have given the 8th-graders a much stronger sense of the suffering they inflicted on the birds they betrayed after having raised them from baby chicks. (Did they slaughter the birds in front of each other in the same room where the birds could see what was happening and hear each other’s cries of pain?) UPC’s president pointed out the atrocity of putting knives in the hands of children ignorant of the neurophysiology of chickens: Which neck vessels did these 14-year-olds cut with their knives, and how did they know - if they did know - which vessels they were cutting? What did, or do, these adolescents, or their teachers, know about the function of the carotid arteries versus the jugular veins in terms of the time it takes for a chicken to lose consciousness and eventually die?
Thus far, not a single substantive issue raised by United Poultry Concerns has been addressed by The Community School - including the fact that the chickens they killed and consumed came from the very same factory-farm conditions the teachers piously claimed to oppose.
Students do not need to kill animals to learn where meat comes from - the Internet is full of videos of the slaughter and death of animals. As for “reality” teaching about violence and death, consider some analogies: Do teachers literally conduct classroom mini-wars to teach students about war? Do they stage drunk-driving accidents and rapes to educate students about drunk driving and sexual assault? Do they induce drug addiction in students so that students can “experientially learn” the devastation of drug addiction? Do they kill dogs and cats in the classroom to drive home the tragedy of unwanted pets? No.
What the chicken-killing project represents, in fact, is “we can get away with this” because the victims are totally defenseless against knife-wielding teachers and students and because birds are excluded from coverage under both the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Animal Welfare Act, making it easy for teachers, unrestrained by conscience, in states lacking Humane Education laws, to abuse chickens with impunity and pass off the social conditioning of their youngsters as “intelligent, informed” decision-making, creating a whole new generation of complacent customers in the guise of “enlightened” consumerism.
Tell The Community School not to repeat the chicken-killing exercise. This was the first time they did it. It should be the last time this school puts knives into the hands of their children and turns them into butchers. In addition, instead of instilling in 14-year-old children the dogma that people will never stop eating animals, as the Food Unit teachers did in order to help justify their violent lesson plan, the Food Unit should present the ethical, healthful and environmental advantages of a wholesome and delicious animal-friendly diet, including cooking classes, vegan dietary research, and why celebrities, sports figures, spiritual leaders and many other people have switched or are in the process of switching from eating animals and animal products to a vegetarian/vegan diet. (In January UPC purchased a subscription to VegNews magazine for The Community School library.)
Photo: Idaho Mountain Express
These sweet birds were brutally killed
by the students.
Urge The Community School to teach and exemplify respect for chickens and for all creatures, and
a compassionate human presence on the planet. Request a written response to your correspondence. Contact:
Andrew Jones-Wilkins, Headmaster
Naomi Goldberg & Scott Runkel, 8th-grade teachers
The Community School
181 Dollar Road, PO Box 2118
Sun Valley, Idaho 83353