25 January 2019

Letter from Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD to Dunn County Board Supervisor District 1

24 January 2019

Brian Johnson
Dunn County Board Supervisor District 1
Ridgeland, Wisconsin

Mr Johnson:

As a veterinarian with many years of experience involving the care of chickens, I hope I can convince you that the planned 'chicken toss' in Ridgeland is inappropriate for welfare and humanitarian reasons.

Chickens are so-called prey animals. They instinctively fear being handled by those who they would consider predators, including human beings. This will particularly be the case with their handling and overall treatment in the 'chicken toss'.

Like all prey animals, survivability is enhanced by being able to avoid notice by predators. One of the means by which this is accomplished is by not displaying signs of disability where possible (4), even while enduring situations known to cause substantial pain or distress. As a result, some chickens subjected to extreme conditions such as in your 'chicken toss' may not show outward signs of being in distress. One cannot assume, however, that this means they are not enduring pain (2) or experiencing extreme fear as indicated by tonic immobility (4, 9).

Handling chickens by their legs or wings alone, as would be the case with inexperienced people such as the children participating in the 'chicken toss', would be painful in itself (3), but can also lead to injuries which exacerbate the pain. Ligaments can tear, joints may become dislocated and there may be other soft tissue damage. Some chickens may have a background which has made them more prone to osteoporosis leading to easily broken bones, causing additional pain (5, 7, 8, 10, 13). So-called broilers also have a higher predisposition to broken bones or painful joint dislocations (6, 11, 12).

These events also are clearly contrary to the principles of animal welfare put forth by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the largest professional veterinary organization worldwide, which states that animals "should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering" (1).

The chickens being subjected to this extremely stressful and terrifying situation gain nothing from it. They are not enjoying themselves. Furthermore, when people derive enjoyment at such events, they do so by debasing their own character by seeking thrills through violent acts against unwilling participants. Of great importance is the implicit message sent by such use of animals. Such events 'teach' children and others, by example, that it is acceptable to use animals for any human purpose, regardless how trivial and even when such use compromises the welfare and well-being of the animals involved.

Our society desperately needs to foster a greater respect for the other creatures with whom we share this planet. The planned 'chicken toss' is antithetical to that aspiration. I urge you to use your influence to discontinue this or any other use of animals that is unquestionably inhumane.

Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California-Davis
E-mail: ncbuyukmihci@ucdavis.edu



  1. Anonymous. 2018. "AVMA animal welfare principles." American Veterinary Medical Association.
  2. Gentle, Michael J. and Hill, Fiona L. 1987. "Oral lesions in the chicken: behavioural responses following nociceptive stimulation." Physiology & Behavior 40(6):781-783.
  3. Gentle, M.J. and Tilston, V.L. 2000. "Nociceptors in the legs of poultry: implications for potential pain in pre-slaughter shackling." Animal Welfare 9(3):227-236.
  4. Hansen, I.; Braastad, B.O.; Storbråten, J. and Tofastrud, M. 1993. "Differences in fearfulness indicated by tonic immobility between laying hens in aviaries and in cages." Animal Welfare 2(2):105-112.
  5. Hughes, B.O. and Appleby, M.C. 1989. "Increase in bone strength of spent laying hens housed in modified cages with perches." The Veterinary Record 124(18):483-484.
  6. Kestin, SC; Knowles, T.G.; Tinch, A.E. and Gregory, N.G. 1992. "Prevalence of leg weakness in broiler chickens and its relationship with genotype." The Veterinary Record 131(9):190-194.
  7. King, Dale F. 1965. "Effects of cage size on cage layer fatigue." Poultry Science 44(3):898-900.
  8. Knowles, T.G. and Broom, D.M. 1990. "Limb bone strength and movement in laying hens from different housing systems." The Veterinary Record 126(15):354-356.
  9. Mills, D.S. and Nicol, C.J. 1990. "Tonic immobility in spent hens after catching and transport." The Veterinary Record 126(9):210-212.
  10. Newberry, Ruth C.; Webster, A. Bruce; Lewis, Nora J. and Van Arnam, Charles. 1999. "Management of spent hens." Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2(1):13-29.
  11. Riddell, C. 1983. "Pathology of the skeleton and tendons of broiler chickens reared to roaster weights. I. Crippled chickens." Avian Diseases 27(4):950-962.
  12. Shim, M.Y.; Karnuah, A.B.; Anthony, N.B.; Pesti, G.M. and Aggrey, S.E. 2012. "The effects of broiler chicken growth rate on valgus, varus, and tibial dyschondroplasia." Poultry Science 91(1):62-65.
  13. Simonsen, H.B. and Vestergaard, Klaus. 1978. Battery-cages as the cause of environmental and behavioural dependent diseases." Nordisk Veterinaermedicin 30(6):241-252.

*If you cannot access a citation, please let me know and I will provide it to be used for educational purposes.