Breaking the Sound of Silence for Good

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

“Regret for things we did is tempered by time. But regret for things we did not do is inconsolable.” – Allan McDonald, an engineer who spoke out against the Space Shuttle Challenger before it blew up in 1986.

It was maybe twenty years ago in an airport where a woman in a brazen fur jacket sat chatting with the man next to her and I sat across from them watching and waiting to intervene. In the end, I didn’t. Instead of saying something about that fur, I shrank back until it was too late as they moved on and my anxiety about speaking turned to guilt and self-recrimination – feelings about the lost opportunity, including the “relief” I felt when it was “too late,” that I carry to this day.

In another airport at another time, I spoke to a couple sitting across from me in the gate area laughing and talking while dipping chicken nuggets in a cup of sauce. Actually, it was they who started the conversation prompted by the button I was wearing with a little yellow chick and the words “Stick Up For Chickens!”

“What does that mean?” they asked, and I said, “It means please be kind to chickens and don’t eat them.” Having copies of our Chickens brochure with me, I dug in my bag and handed them one and we talked a little more about chickens and parted amiably.

Through the years I’ve had many conversations with strangers in airports and other places where my “Stick Up For Chickens” button or my Turkey button, “Don’t Gobble Me,” sparked a question. Once while waiting to board a plane, a man asked what my “Stick Up For Chickens” button meant, and I told him about our chicken sanctuary and he went from seeming kind of sour to an animated account of a rooster he had once loved who followed him everywhere and how much he missed that rooster.

Many times through the years I’ve handed a brochure and spoken to a stranger unsolicited, and rarely has the response been hostile. The most common experience I’ve had is surprise at how willing people are to engage when I say to them, brochure in hand, “Would you like to learn more about chickens and turkeys?” “Uh, okay, sure.”

So when one of our members, Barbara Moffit in Oklahoma, sent me a two-sided card she’d handmade and printed, featuring chickens “Dying for Dinner,” I was like, “Wow, this is great!” We quickly had these cards designed, printed, and ready for sale and distribution.

I carry a small packet of “Dying for Dinner” cards wherever I go, placing them here and there on store shelves and handing them directly to cashiers, receptionists, checkout people, wherever I happen to be. The image of the chickens on the front of the card and the words on the other side have a perceptible effect on the person receiving it. I watch them and say, “Please don’t eat chickens. They suffer so much.”

The checkout person I handed a card to recently at our local supermarket said how sad it made her feel. We talked a little longer and I told her about all the chicken-free and other delicious vegan products the store now carries – a variety of Gardein, Morningstar Farms, Tofurky, Follow Your Heart, Lightlife, Boca burgers, “chik’n” nuggets, patties, and more – and she asked me to show her where in the store these products were located, which, of course, I eagerly did.

Next time I was at checkout, she came over and asked me to give a “Dying for Dinner” card to her fellow employee, saying again how sad she felt for the chickens and how she did not want to eat them anymore.

I think reading about how the chickens try to hide their heads and their poor little faces under the wing of the chicken next to them on the slaughter line, and how afraid they are, stirs a feeling in people who probably never considered the fear that the birds are feeling.

Once, I gave a talk at an event about chickens that caused some members in the audience to cry as I was speaking, and the moderator said, “Well, we certainly don’t want to make anyone cry.”

Yes, we do. People should feel the sadness and experience sensations commensurate with the helpless terror of a poor little bird. Sadness, like guilt, lingers, and contrary to what is sometimes said, guilt about not speaking up when a chance arises, can motivate us to take advantage of the next opportunity to break through the sound of silence. Speaking up benefits us psychologically, replacing guilt with gratitude, and our compassionate disruption penetrates the consciousness of the person or persons we approach. So let us not be afraid. There is much we can do in a little bit of time.

New “Dying for Dinner” Cards

Place in stores, mail, etc.!

3” x 4”
25 for $2.50
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Send check or money order to:
United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405

Dying for Dinner Cards (front)
Dying for Dinner Cards (back)

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