United Poultry Concerns
Why I Took Chicklett and Ran!
By Whitney Hillman
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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. Here is her story.

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

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