“Not Chicklett! – He Has Become a Loved One”

whitney and chicklett salina journal
Photo: Tom Dorsey, Salina Journal

When the time came for students at Concordia High School, in the small agricultural town of Concordia, Kansas, to slaughter their chickens on October 11, 2010, one student said “No.”

Whitney Hillman, a 16-year-old junior in Nate Hamilton’s Animal Science and Food Production course, not only refused to slaughter her chicken, Chicklett; she grabbed him out of his cage the day of the killings, tucked him into her purse, and spirited him to safety.

But Whitney didn’t stop there. She wrote an impassioned letter to Hamilton and the high school principal explaining her actions. In her letter she described how the students were told to name their chickens and color them with purple markers for identification, and how resistance to the project grew inside her. Subsequently, Whitney described how reality and rhetoric clashed in Hamilton’s classroom. For example, she told the Salina Journal, “He kept saying he’d much rather eat one of these chickens than one raised by Tyson, but I really didn’t see much difference. They were packed in [their cages in the classroom], with barely any room to move.”

Although Whitney was not a vegetarian prior to the Chicken Project, she says she no longer eats animals, and that while she once wanted a career in zoology, she is now considering a career in animal advocacy. Whitney’s verbal skills and moral courage would be tremendous assets for animals. It should be noted that while Whitney was the only student brave enough to defy her teacher’s instructions to kill, she spoke for others who sadly petted their chickens goodbye and didn’t want to slaughter them, but felt they had no choice. It should also be noted that Whitney is blessed with parents who helped her save Chicklett, and who totally support her.

“Teen saves pet chicken from slaughter at school,” The Kansas City Star , Oct. 23, 2010

“Her mother contacted Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns, a national non-profit group that campaigns against inhumane treatment of poultry. ‘We submit doing this to chickens is unforgivable and inexcusable, and the same goes for [doing this to] the students,’ Davis said. ‘I praise Whitney for having the courage in an agriculture environment to stand up and refuse to be coerced into violating her conscience by killing her chicken.’”

On October 17, 2010, Whitney Hillman’s mother, Kristina Frost, sent an email to United Poultry Concerns:

Dear UPC,

I saw your group online, and I am writing to request your help in addressing what went on at my daughter’s school regarding the slaughtering of over 40 chickens. My daughter rescued her chicken from her high school classroom and ran away from school with him on 10/11/2010. The chicken was one of over 40 chickens scheduled to have their throats cut that day by high schoolers as part of a classroom pilot program to “teach” kids where their food comes from. NO preparation for the teens or families, no permission slips and no warnings at class sign-up were given. It was too late to transfer classes by the time the chicks arrived in the class. My daughter refused to be a part of the slaughter and could not leave her chicken behind, so she chicken-napped him and ran away from the school leaving a letter addressed to her teacher and principal behind.

Here is my daughter’s letter of October 11, 2010. Thank you, Kristina Frost, Whitney’s mother

“Why I Took Chicklett and Ran,” by Whitney Hillman to her teacher and principal:
(Ellipses indicate slight editing for space. – UPC Editor)

At the beginning of the semester we were told we were going to be buying baby chicks, raising them for 5-7 weeks, and then slaughtering them. When we were told this, it was too late to transfer classes. Assuming we didn’t have enough funding for the project, I wasn’t too concerned. Then all of a sudden we have boxes filled with baby chickens, and we were told to pick our own chicken. Obviously, I think this is wrong in many ways, and my intent in this letter is to explain why I did what I did. . . .

Permission slips are widely used within school systems, mainly for field trips and movies. History classes are big on this because we watch R-rated movies. These movies are not rated R because of their sexual content, nudity, or language, but because of their blood, gore, and violence. What is involved in chicken slaughtering? Blood, gore, and violence. So I think that’s a pretty good reason for a permission slip. Also, some parents might object to this all together! Maybe they don’t want their children to have this experience, or perhaps they are a vegetarian family, and don’t believe in the slaughtering of animals for food. Whatever the reason, like it or not, parents do have a say!

When the word raise is brought to mind, what do you think of? When I hear the word “raise,” I think of taking care of something or someone because they cannot do it on their own. This involves animals; they cannot raise themselves, especially not in a cage. So we chose our chickens, gave our chickens names, and found ways to remember which chicken belonged to each person. While everyone else was covering their chickens in permanent marker, I was looking at my chicken’s color. My chicken had an orange head instead of yellow, which is what all the other chickens had in my group. So I could distinctly tell the difference, but Mr. Hamilton made me color mine anyway. I didn’t want to color my chicken with a permanent marker because it felt wrong. If coloring the chicken made me feel bad, how do you imagine killing it would make me feel? So, instead of coloring my chicken, I put a purple dot on his foot. It still felt wrong, but it was a lot better than covering his feathers in purple marker. So, I had chosen my chicken, given him a name (Chicklett), and now it was time to raise my chicken. . . .

My chicken has become a loved one. No matter how stupid that sounds, he has. I am an animal lover, I have a dog and he’s like my son. I go to the zoo and it makes me cry because the animals look so depressed and lonely. So, yes I have, in fact, become attached to Chicklett, and could not participate in his death. If you cannot understand my perspective, let me put it in perspective for you. If you have a pet at home that you love dearly, or if you have ever had a pet that you loved, then look at it like this: someone throws your pet in a cage with 4 or 5 others, and says in 5 weeks you are to cut off its head, pull off its fur, clean out all the guts, bag and freeze the meat, and take it home for your family to enjoy. What would you do? Would you not do everything in your power to keep a loved one safe? Are pets not loved ones? So, please do not judge what I did on the grounds of stupidity and bad behavior, but on the grounds of love and empathy for another living being. I have raised my chicken. I will not kill him, but skipping the killing wasn’t enough, I had to save him.

Dissection is a major part of science, but there is almost always a choice of doing an online version, or watching. [However] we were told that we must do some part of the slaughtering. My job is not cutting the chicken’s head off or boiling the chicken in hot water to make the feathers easier to pull out, nor do I have to gut the chicken. My job is to pluck each feather from my chicken, and other chickens’ dead bodies. Close your eyes and imagine having someone cut off your head, and then stripping you naked: not a fun image, right? Yes, it is just a chicken to you, but to me it’s a living being and has just as much right to live as we do. . . .

So I will gladly accept any punishment you give me, but I will not apologize for what I have done, I will not regret it, and I would definitely do it again if I had to. . . . I will not be telling where my chicken is, but that he is safe. I will gladly pay any cost that is asked of me, because I did take the chicken, but please, all I ask is that you understand why.

Whitney Hillman, October 11, 2010, the day of the killings

What Can I Do?

Please write to Concordia High School officials and urge that animal slaughter be removed from the curriculum. It is wrong for teachers to put knives in the hands of students, who have no idea what they are doing but are anxiously submitting to their teacher’s violent demands. Please write thoughtfully and sensitively, the way Whitney Hillman wrote to her teacher and principal. Thank you for being a voice for the chickens, and for the students, many of whom will be traumatized for life as a result of their participation in this brutal killing of innocent birds who trusted them and whom they felt forced to betray by the misguided adults they looked up to.

Gregg Errebo, Principal
Corey Isbell, Assistant Principal
Unified School District 333
Concordia Junior/Senior High School
436 W. 10th Street
Concordia, KS 66901
Via Email: gregg.errebo@usd333.com,

Bev Mortimer, School Superintendent
Unified School District 333 Board of Education
217 W. 7th Street
Concordia, KS 66901
Via Email: bev.mortimer@usd333.com

Unified School District 333 Board of Education Members:
Wanda Backstrom, Member
Jolene Kindel, Member
Chuck Knapp, Member
Rick Limon, Member
Pat Murk, Member
Kevin Pounds, Member
Mary Beth Smith, Member
Unified School District 333 Board of Education
217 W. 7th Street
Concordia, KS 66901
Email addresses: