Ira Glass Runs Chicken Killing Story on This American Life on NPR Stations, Nov 26, 2021
In “Don’t Chicken Out,” a boyfriend kills a chicken to impress his date and her mother.
By Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns
Ira Glass: Don't Chicken Out. “So one thing about the birds in the show, the spark birds, is that they don't know how consequential they are. Know what I mean? They're just going about their day, picking up worms and seeds, unaware of the lives they're transforming. I'm fairly sure that that's true for the bird in this first story, though we were unable to confirm that independently with the bird.”
Watch the segment here:
Don’t Chicken Out
To read the transcript:
“Act One: Don’t Chicken Out”
UPC Synopsis: The story recounts an event in 1963 when a girl’s mother brings home a chicken to be killed. The mother goads the boyfriend into killing the chicken, whose manner of death is omitted from the broadcast (Ira Glass: “OK, I'm going to spare you the details of how he killed the chicken.”) The chicken-killing “sparks” a romance that leads eventually to marriage of the boy and girl. The girl, 58 years later, tells with pride how her boyfriend showed his love for her by killing the chicken (“He killed something for me”) while the boyfriend, 58 years later, says he killed the chicken in order to meet the mother’s challenge – “I looked at it like my manhood was being questioned.”
The chicken meanwhile is “scratching” inside the box while mother, daughter, and boyfriend discuss the killing. This, of course, is supposed to tickle and charm the audience.
To post a comment and read reactions on
This American Life’s Facebook Page:
Spark Bird - This American Life
I expressed on TAL’s Facebook page my disgust with Ira Glass, who appeared on Late Night with David Letterman on April 20, 2007 talking about his visit to our sanctuary for chickens in rural Virginia. He described the letter-writing campaign we mobilized against his annual Fall “poultry slam” and noted the overwhelming task of advocating for chickens in a world where their killings amount to an “Armageddon.” He described our sanctuary, where “little escaping chickens” falling off trucks are sometimes brought to live with us and how I invited him to visit. Meeting our chickens, he said he saw that they are individuals with personalities – “this one’s shy, that one’s outgoing.” Asked by Letterman if he changed his diet after the visit, Ira said he thought of our chickens every time he ate a piece of one and, as a result, he became a vegetarian.
To view the Letterman segment on YouTube:
Ira Glass Talks About Chickens
To protest “Don’t Chicken Out,” contact This American Life and National Public Radio:
- We love hearing your comments on our stories. Comment emails are circulated among all the producers and taken very seriously. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly McBride, Public Editor
Office of the Public Editor at NPR
1111 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Ask the Public Editor about ethics
The Public Editor is an independent mediator on questions raised by the audience regarding the standards and ethics of National Public Radio’s journalism.
Something I Heard or Read: