A True Friend to Chickens and United Poultry Concerns
“My respect for you and your work with chickens is so high. . . .” – Gretchen Wyler to Karen Davis, July 13, 2000
By Karen Davis, President & Founder of United Poultry Concerns
On Sunday, May 27, 2007, Gretchen Wyler, creator of the Ark Trust Genesis Awards, in 1986, died at the age of seventy-five of breast cancer. This dynamic actress, celebrated for her Broadway performances, TV and film appearances, left her acting career to devote herself fulltime to protecting animals. The motto of the Ark Trust Genesis Awards ceremony, which is held every year in Hollywood to honor individuals in the major media whose work has thrown the spotlight on animal abuse and exploitation, is “Cruelty Can’t Stand the Spotlight.”
I am honored to add to the wealth of worldwide tributes being paid to Gretchen Wyler. Over the years, Gretchen sent me many kind handwritten notes ranging from thanking me for my review of the 2000 Genesis Award-winning film Chicken Run published in the LA Daily News on July 13, 2000 – “Can you possibly imagine how pleased I was to read your review of Chicken Run?” – to extending her warmest wishes to United Poultry Concerns when we moved our headquarters and sanctuary from Maryland to Virginia in 1998.
The magnificent thing that Gretchen Wyler did for chickens and United Poultry Concerns was to honor The Washington Post profile article about United Poultry Concerns, “For the Birds,” by Tamara Jones, which appeared in the Sunday Style section of the newspaper on November 14, 1999. (www.upc-online.org/991114wpost_karen_davis.html).
On March 18, 2000, the 14th Annual Genesis Awards ceremony honored “For the Birds” as the Outstanding National Newspaper Feature in 1999, “for an unprecedented profile of the care and killing of the animals who most frequently appear on Americans’ dinner tables – chickens – and those brave souls, led by Karen Davis, who flock to their defense.” The write-up in the 1999 Genesis Awards Souvenir Journal included these words about me from “For the Birds”: “The horrors she has seen and felt and imagined convince her that there can be no caring, omnipotent being watching over this Earth. She is talking again about hens lying broken in their filthy cages, dumped into scald tanks, being hung upside down on hooks . . . ‘If God’s not there for them, I don’t care if He’s here for anyone.’”
In addition to this cherished Award, Gretchen Wyler and the Board of the Ark Trust nominated two other major media presentations featuring United Poultry Concerns’ work on behalf of chickens and other domestic fowl: The April 30, 2000 Washington Post article by Marc Kaufman, “Cracks in the Egg Industry: Criticism Mounts to End Forced Molting Practice”; and Emmy-winning filmmaker John Kastner’s November 14, 2000 show “Chickens are People Too,” which appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting weekly Primetime television program, Witness. (“Chickens are People Too” has appeared on television many times since).
(A big reason Marc Kaufman’s article “Cracks in the Egg Industry” did not win the Award for Outstanding Newspaper Feature for 2000 was The Washington Post’s position of refusing to formally accept awards for major stories written by staff writers that could “appear biased to a controversial advocacy position.”)
United Poultry Concerns is indebted to Gretchen Wyler far beyond what words can express. Gretchen was a warm and caring friend as well as a staunch supporter of United Poultry Concerns. She and the Ark Trust Genesis Awards are a major reason why billions of beautiful, innocent birds trapped in the hell of “food” production are now at the heart of animal advocacy campaigns and exposures, nationally and worldwide. Gretchen’s courageous and compassionate spirit will continue to inform and inspire our work on behalf of these birds until they are freed, and free.
Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns, June 22, 2007