February 23, 1998
I was told around Christmas time that a poor chicken in a Chinatown arcade here in New York City was forced to play tic-tac-toe in order to get food. This had evidently gone on for years. Horrified, I decided to rescue her, so Patrick Kwan and I made a date to meet at his apartment on Thursday, January 29 at 5:00 pm to free the chicken.
He took me to the Chinatown Arcade at 8 Mott Street. There I saw the hen in her box. The manager/owner was out, but we were told to come back in two hours, which we did. Mr. Samuel, the manager, was in his booth giving customers coins for bills to play the games. It was so noisy I could hardly hear him. I begged Mr Samuel to let me please have the chicken, whom I immediately named Lily.
Mr. Samuel said, "Come back in a month." I said I couldn't. Mr. Samuel said. "Come back in a week." "No!" I begged and begged, "I have to take her today." He said he needed a moment to pray for the decision he should make – we were both still. Then he turned to me and said: "Take the chicken!" I hugged him I was so grateful.
He told me he gave the chicken to me because I treated him like a human being, whereas others had come in threatening to bomb the place. To all those who tried before me, whatever their methods, I want to say a huge thank you. You paved the way, you awakened his consciousness, and even one of Mr. Samuel's employees tried to persuade him to free Lily.
Out of There!
Lily went home with me that night in a taxi. I gasped at her 3 1/2 inch nails and dirty rear end, but did some fast grooming. She loved walking on my soft living room rug, the first time she didn't have wire under her feet. The next morning she lay in the sun streaming in the window. I was able to remove a hideous ring through her wing. I put food everywhere, in dishes, on the floor, in my hand, but she kept pecking the walls, like in the tic-tac-toe game expecting food to come out.
I called United Poultry Concerns for advice. The next day Lily caught on that she didn't have to perform to get fed. We had a beautiful Saturday together. On Sunday, February 1st, Lily was driven to Massachusetts where she is safe and happy with two good friends and their other rescued birds.
I went the next week to call on Mr. Samuel, to tell him how happy Lily was and to give him pictures of her in my apartment framed as a thank you. He told me he had had money offers for the empty chicken cage machine. I said, "Please don't sell it for another chicken to suffer in. I will buy the machine and destroy it." He promised he wouldn't sell it to anyone or get another chicken.
Photo by Matt Kelly
I went to see Mr. Samuel last night at the Chinatown Arcade to bring him pictures that Matt and Mary had sent me of Lily in her new home. Thank heaven there was no new Lily" or "Willy," and he has the framed pictures of Lily in my living room over the door of his little booth for all to see. He said many people have asked about the chicken – "What happened?" He said he tells them: "She's FREE!" and shows them the pictures. Practically everyone has thanked him for his good deed, he told me. Only a wee percent miss playing the wretched tic-tac-toe with a tormented bird.
Mr. Samuel is not going to get another chicken, that is for sure, but if your newsletter readers would like to drop him a note and praise and thank him for freeing Lily, I think he'd appreciate that. He truly deserves applause.
- Please send a short, gracious letter to Mr. Samuel thanking him very much for freeing Lily. Tell him how relieved you are that he has decided never to replace Lily with another "tic-tac-toe" chicken. His address is Mr. Samuel, Chinatown Fair, 8 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013.
*Rutgers University law professor Gary Francione discusses the plight of the "tic-tac-toe chicken" – a series of chickens in the NYC Chinatown Arcade since the 1960s – in his book Animals, Property, and the Law (1995), 19-20.