UPC President Karen Davis's Bio

Karen Davis at her desk
Photo: Davida G. Breier

Karen Davis is the founding editor of Poultry Press, the quarterly magazine of United Poultry Concerns, chosen one of the BEST Nonprofit Publications in North America by UTNE magazine.

[Dr. Karen] Davis has done more than perhaps anyone to reveal the complex and socially rich lives of birds. Her writing―intellectually rigorous, passionate, erudite, and witty―brings fully to the fore the great injustices we have perpetrated on these intelligent and loving creatures." – Marc Bekoff, PhD, Psychology Today, June, 2019: Marc Bekoff Interviews Karen Davis For The Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation

“Karen Davis is an extraordinary woman. The President of United Poultry Concerns, she is one of the world's leading authorities on welfare of chickens, turkeys etc. I recommend her book ‘The Holocaust and the Henmaid's Tale.’ . . . [H]er website is an exemplary resource for anyone interested in discovering information on these wonderful creatures.” Philanthropist Philip Wollen, Facebook, September 2015

“Thanks to Karen Davis, chickens and turkeys are now front-and-center on the animal rights agenda.”
– Norm Phelps, The Longest Struggle, 2007

Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns
PO BOX 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405
757-678-7875 • Fax: 757-678-5070

Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs

UPC President Karen Davis, PhD, New Revised Edition, 2009.
To learn more, click on press release.

Click Here to Order

Watch United Poultry Concerns’ 30-Year Anniversary Video! 3 April 2020

KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Founded in 1990, United Poultry Concerns addresses the treatment of domestic fowl in food production, science, education, entertainment, and human companionship situations. Karen has a PhD in English from the University of Maryland-College Park where she taught for twelve years in the English Department.

Karen’s articles have appeared in The Faculty Voice (University of Maryland), Journal of English and Germanic Philology, English Language Notes, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and Between the Species: A Journal of Ethics. Her work, letters-to-the editor and op-eds have been featured in the New York Times, New Yorker, New York Daily News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, Washingtonian, Altoona Mirror, Chicago Tribune, Portland Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Eastern Shore News, Salisbury Daily Times, Cape Charles Wave, Potomac Gazette, Jerusalem Post, Harper’s Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Minnesota Monthly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Nation, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, “Dear Abby,” Egg Industry, Feedstuffs, VegNews, Animal People, Animals 24-7, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Veterinary Journal, One Green Planet, The Dodo, USA Today, Encyclopedia Britannica and many other publications. Karen has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Howard Stern Show, The Daily Show, Fact Finders on WB Channel 11 News @ Ten in New York City, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports/CBS New York, Fox Television, and This American Life on National Public Radio.

Karen Davis has essays in Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (Duke UP, 1995), Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern Books, 2004), Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Studies Journal Vol. 2, No. 2 (Center on Animal Liberation Affairs, 2005), and Encyclopedia of Animals and Humans (Greenwood, 2007). Her essay “Chicken-Human Relationships: From Procrustean Genocide to Empathic Anthropomorphism” is featured in the Spring 2010 issue of Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture. An extended version of this essay, “Procrustean Solutions to Animal Identity and Welfare Problems,” forms the opening chapter of Critical Theory and Animal Liberation (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).

In 2011 Karen published a chapter on her growth as an activist, “From Hunting Grounds to Chicken Rights: My Story in an Eggshell,” in Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice (University of Illinois Press). Her contribution, “Birds Used in Food Production,” appears in The Global Guide to Animal Protection (University of Illinois Press, 2013). Karen’s essay, “The Mental Life of Chickens as Observed Through Their Social Relationships,” is the opening chapter in Experiencing Animal Minds: An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters (Columbia University Press, 2012), and her essay, “From Animal Oppression to Animal Liberation: A Historical Reflection,” is the Afterword in Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach to Liberation (Peter Lang, 2014).

Karen’s chapter, “Anthropomorphic Visions of Chickens Bred for Human Consumption,” in Critical Animal Studies: Thinking the Unthinkable (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2014), analyzes the transformation of chickens and turkeys into mutilated forms of existence as an endeavor not only of the poultry industry, but as a “welfare improvement” strategy endorsed by elements of the so-called animal protection movement. In 2017 Karen’s essay “The Provocative Elitism of ‘Personhood for Nonhuman Creatures” was published in the anthology Meat Culture; her article “Disengaged Journalism” was published in Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-species Social Justice in 2018; and in 2018 Karen published Chickens: Their Life and Death in Farming Operations in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Karen Davis wrote “Hidden in Plain Sight” as the Forward to Michael Lanfield’s 2014 book, The Interconnectedness of Life, and she has an essay in Letters to a New Vegan: Words to Inform, Inspire, and Support a Vegan Lifestyle published by Lantern Books in 2015.

At the University of Maryland Karen founded the Animal Rights Coalition in 1989, and she pioneered a course on the role of animals in the Western philosophic and literary tradition in the University of Maryland Honors Program. Karen has been a featured speaker at the annual National Animal Rights and Taking Action for Animals conferences in Washington, DC and Los Angeles. On July 2, 2002, Karen was inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame “for outstanding contributions to animal liberation.”

On November 14, 1999, Karen Davis was profiled in “For the Birds,” in The Washington Post, winner of the 1999 Ark Trust Genesis Award for Outstanding Newspaper Feature for 1999

On October 7, 2012, the Altoona Mirror profiled Karen Davis in “Won’t Back Down: Altoona native pursues poultry advocacy,” a special newspaper feature about “people who became success stories after launching from central Pennsylvania.”

On November 14, 2000, Karen and United Poultry Concerns were featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Primetime TV show Witness, in “Chickens are People Too,” produced by the Emmy-winning filmmaker, John Kastner. In 2002 Karen gave a presentation on “The Beauty, Dignity & Abuse of Chickens” at the Yale University Chicken Conference, May 17-19.

The October 2002 issue of Egg Industry magazine featured Karen Davis and UPC in a special interview; and the September 2006 issue of Washingtonian magazine represented Karen and UPC’s chicken sanctuary in Machipongo, Va. as a “counterpoint” to the Delmarva poultry industry on the Eastern Shore (www.upc-online.org/broiler/9230842day.html).

In November 2014, Karen Davis was profiled in a USA Today video interview at UPC's sanctuary in Machipongo, VA. The interview was featured on the front pages of the Salisbury (MD) Daily Times and the Eastern Shore News. (See Va. woman making a stand for birds 18 November 2014.) This multimedia feature presentation won Virginia Press Association awards in April 2015 for outstanding reporting and photography.

In the Summer 2015 issue of UPDATE, published by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Karen Davis was honored with other women founders of successful organizations dedicated to animals and the promotion of animal rights.

On April 20, 2007, media celebrity Ira Glass, host of the popular Public Radio International program This American Life aired on NPR, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman where he told Letterman and millions of viewers that his visit to United Poultry Concerns’ chicken sanctuary in 1998 led him to become a vegetarian. Karen Davis and UPC’s sanctuary are currently featured in two major films on DVD: The Emotional World of Farm Animals narrated by Jeffrey Masson & frequently aired on NPR; and Animal People: The Humane Movement in America produced by Gary Kaskel and United Action for Animals in 2007.

Since 1999, Karen and UPC have hosted eighteen annual conferences on farmed animal advocacy issues. UPC’s Forum on Direct Action for Animals, June 26-27, 1999, introduced U.S. activists to the strategy developed by Australian activist, Patty Mark, of Open Rescues, in which undercover investigators admit to rescuing animals and documenting the conditions of their abuse. UPC’s 7th annual conference presented “Inadmissible Comparisons” at the New York University Law School, cohosted by Lantern Books and the NYU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, March 24-25, 2007. In March 2008, Karen and UPC hosted a conference on farmed animal and vegetarian advocacy issues in Virginia; and in 2010, UPC hosted its 9th annual conference, in Fairfax, VA on the topic of “Expert Discourse and the Problem of the Chicken.”

In 2012-2019, UPC hosted 8 annual conferences in Berkeley, California on the topic of Conscious Eating: What is Truly Sustainable? The 2019 conference was held on March 2nd. For more information about UPC’s conferences, visit www.upc-online.org/forums/.

In 2010, Karen and a group of New York City activists formed The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos (www.EndChickensAsKaporos.com), a project of United Poultry Concerns comprising people who seek to replace the cruel practice of swinging and slaughtering chickens in Kaporos rituals with money or other non-animal symbols of atonement. On October 9, 2010, Pulitzer Prizewinning photojournalist Carol Guzy published “An ancient tradition draws protests” in the online edition of The Washington Post, prompted by the Alliance’s Rally to End Chickens as Kaporos, on September 12, 2010, in Brooklyn, NY (www.endchickensaskaporos.com/101011wpost.html). On June 12, 2014, Karen gave a visual presentation at the historic Forum on Animal Sacrifice and Kaporos, hosted by the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Animal Law, on the Suffering of Chickens in Kaporos Rituals.

Karen’s work is prominently featured in the National Museum of Animals & Society’s online exhibit “Un-Cooped: Deconstructing the Domesticated Chicken.” This unique museum opened in May 2013 to correspond with UPC’s International Respect for Chickens Day, an annual project Karen founded in 2005 to celebrate chickens throughout the world and protest their suffering and abuse. Visit Un-Cooped at www.uncooped.org.

Karen Davis is the author of several books including A Home for Henny (a children’s book published by UPC); Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey: A Poultryless ‘Poultry’ Potpourri (a cookbook published by the Book Publishing Co.); Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Co.); More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality (Lantern Books); and The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities (Lantern Books). The 2009 Revised Edition of Karen’s landmark book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs (first published in 1996) is described by the American Library Association's Choice magazine as "Riveting . . . brilliant . . . noteworthy for its breadth and depth." See Book Reviews at www.upc-online.org/bookreviews/. Karen’s latest book, published by Lantern Books in 2019, is For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation – Essays on Chickens, Turkeys, and Other Domesticated Fowl.

Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns, 2019

Karen and Florence
Photo of Karen Davis and Florence by John H. Sheally courtesy of The Virginian-Pilot
November 25, 2004 (Thanksgiving Day)