"My Chicken Run"
by Joel Stein
August 7, 2000
I don't care about animals. I'm pro-fur and pro-animal testing and
though it's not my preferred method of gambling, cockfighting is fine
with me. But I do love mischief. And from what I can tell, the
animal-loving freaks at the People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals are the only ones having any fun. So I called Tracy Reiman,
leader of PETA's Commando Chicks, a group of women who dress in
skimpy showgirl outfits to protest chicken eating. These women were
willing to degrade themselves for animals. That is so hot.
Tracy told me I could join them on their first action: a supermarket
raid for which I'd wear a giant chicken suit and label chicken
products with stickers that read "Warning: This package contains the
decomposing corpse of a small tortured bird." When I asked her about
the possibility of getting arrested, she said, "For people who work
hard, jail offers a nice time just to relax." I told Tracy that
things were probably a little different in the men's jail than the
women's. "When you're in jail, it's good to remember that there are
animals in cages who never get to leave," she added. I pointed out
that caged animals aren't often forced to be the "Jenny" of a larger,
tattooier caged animal.
Last Tuesday, I met the Commando Chicks outside the Acme in
Wilmington, Del., the heart of chicken-raising country. As we
approached the store, the manager came out to accuse us of
trespassing and block our entrance. The women snuck in the exit, and
when the manager went to chase them, I walked in. By the time I got
to the chicken section, there were quite a number of customers
gathered around. I delivered my lines-"Stay away from the birds!"
and "Give a cluck!"-to which one woman yelled, "I'm going to have
myself a nice, juicy chicken!" and two old guys started making
vehement booking noises at me. One woman asked if pork was O.K. "Go
ahead! Eat all the pork you can!" I squawked. The Commando Chicks
weren't too happy with that one.
That's when the police came and asked us to leave. I left. The
women, however, continued to sticker the chicken. Waddling toward
the exit, I grabbed a bottle of water from the shelves, thinking
three things: 1) I sure am thirsty in this burning-hot chicken
outfit, 2) it would be funny to stand in line in a chicken outfit,
and 3) if they serve me as a customer, it's no longer trespassing.
I know this isn't Brandeis-level legal thought, but I was wearing a
giant chicken outfit at the time. Those judicial robes are
free-flowing for a reason.
Unfortunately, owing to the vision limitations of the chicken head, I
picked a very long line. Eventually, my three half-naked friends and
Officer Pigford joined me while I waited for a woman to use both
coupons and a check to by her groceries. It was eerily quiet until a
baby looked at me and started to cry. After I finally reached into
my chicken pants and paid for the water, we were met by three more
They took Polaroids of us, including one with my chicken head on,
and let us go. As we parted, I looked down at my new friends'
glowing faces, or thereabouts, and felt connected. They may not be
able to distinguish animals from people, but they sure know how to
have fun. Still, I wouldn't choose them over a heaping plate of