Amazon Reviews Praise FOR THE BIRDS: FROM EXPLOITATION TO LIBERATION
by Karen Davis, PhD
Karen Davis’s book For the Birds is a masterpiece. Brilliantly written, passionate, eloquent, engaging, and witty, it combines Davis’s vast knowledge of facts about the lives of chickens, turkeys, and other birds, with her gift for presenting multiple perspectives on the problems facing them and the horrors we humans inflict on them. These essays span political and advocacy issues, beautiful and fascinating descriptions of the lives of these magnificent birds and their capacities, courageous and helpful stories from Davis’s own life, and more, always informed by Davis’s unwavering adherence to her moral principles and her example to all of us in this.
As a psychologist, I was particularly struck by Davis’s keen psychological insights and her exquisite sense of empathy for these innocent creatures we humans do such violence to. Her depictions of the psychological experience of a battery hen and the ancestral memories in a “broiler” chicken house cannot fail to change us and our outlook, if we have any empathy ourselves.
This is a “Must Read” book for laypersons and experts alike.
– Deborah Tanzer
This is a great book. It cries out on behalf of the billions of farmed
animals who are suffering so horribly, and, at the same time, provides a
brilliant analysis of the social assumptions that promote this suffering.
Weaved throughout the book is Dr. Davis's personal story, which is the
story of one of the heroes of our time. This book may bring tears to your
eyes, but you also will be inspired.
– Bill Crain
A remarkable book by an extraordinary woman, "For the Birds" is part memoir and part collection of essays all having to do with gallinaceous birds (chickens, turkeys, etc.) and how they are treated in modern human society. Some of the essays (chapters) are long and some are short but most deal with how chickens and turkeys are exploited and abused by the poultry industry. Several chapters instead deal with the natural behaviors of the wild progenitors of modern-day chickens and turkeys and how quickly chickens and turkeys revert to these natural behaviors, insofar as they can, when released from the cruel shackles of factory farms. I say insofar as they can because many of these birds have been genetically altered to incorporate various grotesqueries that add to their profitability from the standpoint of poultry farmers but condemn the birds to a life of disability and torment.
Of particularly interest for readers already depressingly-familiar with the ghastly treatment meted out to "food animals" are chapters dealing with the environmental and journalistic communities' chilly reception of animal rights and Dr. Davis's own background before founding United Poultry Concerns, an organization unique in the world. "Deep ecology" obsessed strictly with the Big Picture and mainstream journalists more attuned to pandering to the wants and prejudices of their readers have scant time for the "little" cruelties being routinely visited upon the pre-mortem stars of their papers' culinary section.
"For the Birds" is not an easy book to read for it is fundamentally a
tragic tale of human misconduct only made palatable by Dr. Davis's
erudition, honesty, sensitivity and command of the facts. It should be
required reading for anybody who utilizes poultry products (eggs, meat,
feathers) and thereby becomes complicit in an enterprise of such scale and
cruelty as to truly beggar the imagination. Nobody with a conscience who
reads this book and seriously considers the issues it raises can ever be
– George N. Bates
If you care about animals and you like humans you should read this book. When reading a book written by Karen Davis you sense that she is determined to pull the weed out by the roots. The "weed" is the belief that we are justified in torturing and killing other animals. Her philosophy runs deep and the connections are intriguing. To what degree is there an urge to control the reproductive ability and process of farm animals and how is that related to the human abortion discussion? From a religious standpoint, if you are responsible for creating something are you entitled to treat it as you wish? What common threads exist that connect things like racism, concentration camps, sexism, hatred of immigrants to our treatment of innocent farm animals?
It is a well written and thought provoking book that will stand the test of
time. I highly recommend it.
– Mike S.
Karen Davis is one of the most important voices in the animal advocacy movement today, so it was with great interest that I recently read "For the Birds," her powerful and deeply moving new book. The fifteen essays in "For the Birds," many published previously, span decades in Davis's life as a researcher, activist, and founder and director of United Poultry Concerns, one of the nation's premiere animal rights organizations. It is a stunning work.
The book begins with a moving account of Davis's childhood growing up in an avid hunting town in Pennsylvania. Davis was an unusually sensitive child and young adult, painfully attuned to the suffering of others. (When Davis learned about the Holocaust for the first time, she recounts, the experience proved so psychologically shattering to her that she briefly had to drop out of school.) Eventually, after college, Davis applied her long commitment to human social justice to advocacy for farmed animals, founding a national nonprofit and opening an animal sanctuary. She has since become one of the most effective and fearless advocates for animals anywhere in the world.
Subsequent chapters in "For the Birds" cover such diverse topics as the ontology and experiences of chickens in the poultry industry, animal cognition, debates in environmental ethics, analysis of news media coverage of animal issues, and much more. Every chapter is well worth reading, each offering frequently brilliant insights into the nature of speciesism as ideology and as brutal practice. As indicated by the book's title, "For the Birds" centers on the experiences of avians (chiefly chickens) in the poultry industry. Davis shows how chickens and other animals are mutilated not merely physically, but psychologically and even ontologically, as the meat and egg industries employ every possible means of force to shape the chicken's very being to conform to the prime directives of efficiency and profit. Even readers familiar already with intensive animal agriculture will learn something new here about the unspeakable cruelty enacted daily against chickens, turkeys, and other sensitive beings languishing in the human gulag. Reading about such horrors, we cannot but share the author's indignation and outrage at the barbarism of humankind.
It takes a skilled writer, however, to be able to make us feel more than horror, and Davis, who earned her doctorate in literature (with a thesis on Thomas Hardy), approaches her material in an engaging way that never fails to hold our interest. When I put down "For the Birds," I wanted to know more about the complex issues Davis had raised, not less. The spare, cogent quality of Davis's prose only heightens the pathos of her unsparing arguments, which burn with restrained anger and are framed by the author's uncompromising moral vision. "For the Birds" is a call to moral arms, and there are few who could resist so eloquent and powerful a call.
Some of the most affecting passages in "For the Birds" are to be found in Davis's personal observations of the chickens and turkeys in Davis's sanctuary. Davis vividly conveys the intelligence and dignity of these beings, revealing them not as "types" but as individuals, each with a distinct personality, likes and dislikes, relationships, and emotional complexity. That the birds are also rescues who, in many cases, suffered severe physical and psychological trauma, only makes Davis's stories of the birds' resilience, affection, and trust that much more poignant.
"For the Birds" will appeal to anyone who cares about animals. However, the
book will hold special interest for readers who are themselves involved in
animal activism, and who stand to benefit from Davis's invaluable, hard-won
reflections on movement tactics and strategy. In her exemplary life, as in
her new book, Davis demonstrates the importance of remaining true to one's
ideals and principles--no matter how long the odds. It takes courage, she
shows, to hold a mirror up to society and to demand that society see itself
as it truly is, rather than as it imagines or wishes itself to be. Though
it is hard to find such courage, and harder to maintain it, Davis shows us
why that courage is so necessary--"for the birds." And for all the animals.
– John S. Sanbonmatsu
I can only echo the Amazon Customer Reviews already posted here about For the Birds by Karen Davis.
“This book may bring tears to your eyes, but you also will be
“It should be required reading for anybody who utilizes poultry
products (eggs, meat, feathers) and thereby becomes complicit in an
enterprise of such scale and cruelty as to truly beggar the
“The book will hold special interest for readers who are themselves
involved in animal activism, and who stand to benefit from Davis's
invaluable, hard-won reflections on movement tactics and strategy. In her
exemplary life, as in her new book, Davis demonstrates the importance of
remaining true to one's ideals and principles--no matter how long the
Since founding Chicken Run Rescue in 2001, I can personally attest to the
depth and breadth of Karen Davis’s tireless work and how it has
shaped activists like us who have been impassioned and educated by her
mentorship. We too know the birds intimately, making their suffering and
their capacity for joy our own. This book offers a way to reason ourselves
out of the hole humanity has dug for itself with regard to other species.
Every animal counts, and the birds are at the bottom of the moral heap.
Help them and you help us all. This book is a road map from exploitation to
– Mary Britton Clouse, Chicken Run Rescue
For The Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation is now available!