Remove Chicken Slaughter from School Curriculum

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Status: Current
Originally Posted: September 3, 2008

Remove Chicken Slaughter from School Curriculum

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"We're studying the impact of growing food and this unit is about the growing of meat." Andy Thomas, spokesman for the Canandaigua City School District, quoted in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 3, 2008.

"'We find ways to teach about situations that involve destructive behavior and killing other than re-enactment in a classroom,' said Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns.... Davis said that if the school decides to continue the unit, the slaughtering of chickens should be videotaped so that the public can see what is being taught." James Goodman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, June 12, 2008

In the Summer issue of Poultry Press, United Poultry Concerns gratefully announced: "Chicken Slaughter Project at Canandaigua Academy in New York Stopped Due to Public Outrage." We invited our members to join us in thanking Lynne Erdle, principal of Canandaigua Academy (a high school in upstate New York), for stopping the classroom killing of chickens in an ecology class that, in December 2007, slaughtered 21 chickens using procedures school administrators have refused to describe.

Sadly, this last July, the Canandaigua Daily Messenger reported that the May decision to stop the project was being reconsidered.

This week Canandaigua Academy administrators announced that the project will continued to be offered as an elective overseen by a "trained butcher" and other "experts" in "an ecology class that entails raising and slaughtering of chickens" following a recommendation by the "Canandaigua school district's chicken project committee"  a rubber stamp committee, with the token exception of animal activist Joel Freedman who resigned in disgust, and who, in December 2007, had met with school administrators to plead for the lives of the birds, just one of whom was saved, a little rooster in this photo taken at Farm Sanctuary, his new home:

UPC President Karen Davis told Democrat and Chronicle reporter James Goodman yesterday, in an interview for today's article, "We're totally disappointed that the school administration did not stand by its decision to eliminate the chicken slaughter," and "there is no need to slaughter the chickens to teach how food gets to the table."

An article about the resumption of the project also appears in today's edition of the Canandaigua Daily Messenger, which says that the project involves "raising chickens for 10 weeks, then killing and barbecuing them to learn about food production" and that the experience can teach students about "accepting cultural diversity and sensitivity," and that "Whether it be the medical field or a social worker helping to see that people living in Third Word countries get enough to eat, the lessons of the Chicken Project can be valuable." All the bases are covered! Read the article and add your comment at:

Here are the letters that appeared in the Canandaigua Daily Messenger, by UPC president Karen Davis on July 16, and by UPC member Joel Freedman of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York, on July 20, 2008, in response to the announcement that the chicken slaughter project would likely be resumed. In his letter, Freedman explains why he resigned from the school district's "chicken project committee" and the superadded cruelty of flying the chicks from an Iowa hatchery by airmail.

UPC President Karen Davis's Letter to the Editor, July 16, 2008

I am writing to request that Canandaigua Academy Principal Lynne Erdle honor the pledge to eliminate the chicken slaughter project from the curriculum. I speak for many people when I tell you how disappointed I am, and disgusted, by her failure to stand by the decision.

Adding to this disgust, I see that the "Controversial 'Chicken Project'" includes a pathetic attempt to remake the slaughter process rhetorically into something other than it is. This whitewash attempt certainly does not justify claims of "commitment to excellence."

As well as the animal abuse being practiced and sanctioned at Canandaigua Academy, if you choose to resume this ugly, pitiless classroom killing, there is also the question of why an ecology course is so irresponsibly oblivious to the reports being issued by the United Nations, University of Chicago and PEW Foundation (among others) about the enormous contribution of mass consumption/production of animal products to global warming.

The United Nations calls raising animals for food "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global" ("Livestock's Long Shadow," a report by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, November 2007).

In addition, for those unfamiliar with the modern science of avian cognition and neurophysiology: The Avian Brain Nomenclature Consortium confirmed, in Nature Neuroscience Reviews, February 2005, that the avian brain is "an intricately wired mass that processes information in much the same way as the human cerebral cortex."

Moreover, as summarized by Dr. Michael Gentle in "Pain in Birds": "It is clear that in terms of discharge patterns and receptive field size, nociceptors (pain receptors) found in the chicken are very similar to those found in a variety of mammalian species" (Animal Welfare, 1992: 234-247).

I request dropping the slaughter project from Canandaigua Academy and developing more constructive teaching. If you do not, the administration has an ethical obligation to record and make publicly available a complete audio-visual tape of the slaughter of each bird by each student.

This is an accountability issue, and we will not drop it. Let the public decide how "humane" and "beneficial" throat-cutting by high school students is. Otherwise, we recognize that your school seeks to hide the reality, and we will make the most of that fact. Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns

Joel Freedman's Letter to the Editor, July 20, 2008

I resigned from the Canandaigua school district's chicken project committee because I was unwilling to endorse a project in which live birds are beheaded in a public school classroom. As the only appointed member who opposed the project, I realized the committee's recommendation to reinstate the chicken project was a certainty, and I did not want to be a part of it.

The day-old birds are packed tightly into two boxes and shipped by the U.S. Postal Service from an Iowa hatchery to Canandaigua. They are deprived of food, water and adequate ventilation for two or three days. According to a veterinarian who specializes in the care of birds, "a day-old chicken can no more withstand three days in a dark, crowded box than can any other newborn."

Animal protection groups are not the only ones opposed to shipping baby birds like luggage. Because many of the birds die or suffer from injuries, dehydration, hunger and temperature extremes en route to their destination, UPS, Federal Express, Airbourne Express and other carriers in the United States will not transport live poultry. Only the U.S. Postal Service will do this.

In 2001, Northwest Airlines joined United Airlines and American Airlines in refusing to carry baby birds as mail. Other airlines considered adopting similar policies. Today, these airlines transport the birds but only because Congress enacted legislation requiring them to do so. Hatchery owners lobbied Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and other legislators for this law.

As for the way birds die in the chicken project, the students are inadequately taught about the pain receptors in the necks, faces and trachea of chickens. They are not taught about the pain involved in the physiology of cutting the necks of birds. If the slaughtering process really was as humane as school officials claim, why won't they videotape and audiotape the slaughter and show it to the public?

Let's not reinstate the chicken project. Instead of a chicken barbecue, school staff should visit for ideas about treating students to a vegan feast. People who avoid meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are far less likely than people who are not vegan to develop obesity, diabetes, hypertension, strokes, heart attacks and cancer. - Joel Freedman, Canandaigua, New York

What Can I Do?

In addition to adding your comment following each of today's article cited above, you can submit a letter to the editor by going to the Opinion sections of the Canandaigua Daily Messenger at and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle at

You may want to tell Canandaigua Academy administrators how disappointed you are by their failure to stand by their decision to end the chicken slaughter project. Remind them that as a public institution, funded by taxpayers, if they are going to use the classroom as a slaughterhouse, the slaughter should be audio-videotaped for public viewing. The Canandaigua City School District needs to be held accountable. Request a written response to your letter.


Mr. Donald Raw, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
Canandaigua City School District
143 North Pearl Street
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Mrs. Tarry Shipley, President
Board of Education
Canandaigua City School District
143 North Pearl Street
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Mrs. Lynne Erdle, Principal
Canandaigua Academy
435 East Street
Canandaigua, NY 14424
email ER[email protected]

Thank you for getting involved.

To learn more about UPC's campaign to eliminate the chicken slaughter project at Canandaigua Academy, please visit, and to learn more about how tohelp chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, visit United Poultry Concerns To learn how these birds are often mistreated, visit All-Creatures Animal Exploitation Photo Gallery

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