United Poultry Concerns September 20, 2002
UPC Letter in Oct 2002 Harper's Magazine

Karen Davis's letter appears in the October 2002 issue of Harper's Magazine, pp. 8-9. It responds to an informative article in the June issue about a farmer who worked for Tyson, describing, for example, how, when the chickens are sent to slaughter, the workers "clean up the house": "In each house several hundred were left, those too small or too crippled to meet the Tyson specs. [A worker] immobilized them anyway he could-snapping their necks, stomping on them-to clean out the house for the next shipment of dandelion-puff chicks." The farmer rescued a chicken, whom she called Boots.

Harper's Magazine

"Chicken 81" (Readings, June) provides an interesting look at chicken farming attitudes and behavior on the small-scale and the large scale. For a minute I thought that Sarah L. Courteau might let the chickens have the last word for a change, but no, the ax-swinging mother wins, and the sexually charged cockerel, Boots, dies. There's a missing piece of information to this ending.

In nature, the polygamous behavior of roosters is not a problem. Under the thumb of humans, however, birds used in meat production grow three to four times faster and larger than normal birds, and those used for breeding become sexually active, though not mature, at half the age of normal chickens-at three months old instead of six. Essentially, the males and females alike are huge baby birds with dysfunctional metabolisms, fragile skeletons, easily torn skin, and the sex hormones of adult birds overwhelming the psyches of pre-adolescents. They are frequently in a great deal of orthopedic pain. If Boots had lived much longer he would have died of congestive heart failure or ascites, most likely after having lost his ability to walk. I've witnessed it a thousand times. The point is, it wasn't his fault that he was so destructive to the hens, and giving him the ax was nothing to crow about. He was already ruined.

Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
Machipongo, Va.

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(UPC Letter in Oct 2002 Harper's Magazine)

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