Last Fall UPC President Karen Davis responded to a request from PETA to review the video an activist shot of a "Chicken Fly" contest in Berryton, KS and to write a letter to Miller Brewing Company explaining why the company should stop sponsoring this disgusting 22-year event. In response to PETA and UPC's urging, Miller canceled its sponsorship. Below is UPC's letter to Miller Brewing Company.
What Can I Do? I
f you hear of a chicken-flying contest being planned, contact UPC for our free brochure on Chicken Flying Contests - also available on our website at http://upc-online.org/chi c ken_flying_contests.html
December 8, 2003
Norman J. Adami, President and CEO
Miller Brewing Company
3939 West Highland Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53201-2866
Dear Mr. Adami:
I am writing to ask you to cancel the Miller Brewing Company's sponsorship of the annual "Chicken Fly" contest in Berryton, Kansas. I reviewed the tape of this year's event, which was sent to our office by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and I agree with PETA that it involves cruelty to animals and encourages children, to whom the event is aimed, to misunderstand the natural behavior of chickens and to mistreat the birds.
The tape depicts two stunts: a) a chicken-flying contest and b) a chicken "rodeo."
a) Chicken-flying contest Chickens of varying weights, sizes, and ages are crowded together in dark cages and boxes, then hoisted into a 10-foot "mailbox" and forced out of it with a toilet plunger amid noise and a microphone. The birds flutter to the ground any which way, land any which way, and are then chased. Keeping the chickens in semidarkness, on the ground, then forcing them into sunlight, up in the air, creates physiological and visual disorientation in these essentially flightless birds. The use of a toilet plunger to shove them out of the mailbox shows that this stunt is designed to instill in children a prurient, hurtful attitude towards defenseless animals.
Being dropped from a height is not the same thing as a bird's taking off from a perch or from the ground. One participant in the tape noted a "heavy-weight" championship. For a bird weighing four pounds or more, the impact of being pushed from 10 feet above ground would cause a painful landing - painful to the hip joints, for example, and could cause internal injuries and ultimately result in a heart attack. As there is no veterinary care before or after the fall, the condition of the birds before and afterward isn't known. At least one bird in one of the dark crowded cages shown on the tape was either ill or lame or both.
b) Chicken "Rodeo " The tape shows a very heavy hen (weighing 8 to 10 pounds or more) being chased. A man carries her into the "rodeo" ring upside down by her feet, then plops her on the ground, whereupon she is chased down, and forced to repeat the exercise. Being carried upside down causes oxygenated blood to rush to the brain so that when suddenly the hen is on her feet, she is dizzy and disoriented: this, added to her being scared, as any living creature would be surrounded by a jeering crowd and being chased down.
The birds in these pseudo-contests are forced to "perform" in order to be ridiculed. There is no skill involved, and there is no veterinary care. There is no indication of how long the birds were forced to sit in the cages, in virtual darkness, or what provisions they were given - food and water - prior to being forced to "fly" and be chased. Moreover, birds in a state of acute fear and anxiety do not eat or drink. The birds are in a situation that is likely to cause injuries, especially internal injuries, heart strain, and pain to the heavier and older birds. The use of a toilet plunger is designed to degrade the birds in the eyes of the children and to encourage in them a smutty, smirking disregard for the feelings and well-being of defenseless animals, and others. We respectfully request that the Miller Brewing Company dissociate itself completely from the Berryton, Kansas "Chicken fly" and "Rodeo."
Thank you very much for your attention to our request. I look forward to hearing from you and urge you to contact me for more information at 757-678-7875. I have enclosed our brochure Chicken-Flying Contests - Cruel Fun to further acquaint you with what is wrong with chicken-flying contests and the many creative alternatives there are to abusing and ridiculing animals for entertainment.
Karen Davis, PhD, President