Oppose Canandaigua Academy Chicken Slaughter Project

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Status: Current
Originally Posted: 25 November 2008

Oppose Canandaigua Academy Chicken Slaughter Project

Letters to NY State Education Department Urgently Needed!

Write to urge the New York State Education Department to deny Canandaigua City School District’s waiver application to kill chickens under Education Law 809 - Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals.

Dr. Ann Crotty
Associate in Science Education
Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology
New York State Department of Education
89 Washington Avenue, Room 320EB
Albany, NY 12234
email

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Controversial Canandaigua Academy Chicken Project

The New York State Education Department is currently reviewing the legal status of a chicken slaughter project at Canandaigua Academy, a high school in upstate New York. The project involves flying 25 or more chicks from Murray McMurry Hatchery in Iowa, as regular, unprotected airmail like luggage (see Veterinary Assessment of Shipping Live Birds as Airmail, to be raised and slaughtered by high school students, then cooked and eaten by the students. In December 2007, students slaughtered 21 chickens and let one little rooster go to Farm Sanctuary following a meeting with school administrators in which Canandaigua animal activist Joel Freedman pleaded futilely for mercy for all of the birds.

Following a vigorous campaign by United Poultry Concerns after this episode, Canandaigua Academy principal Lynne Erdle announced in July that the slaughter project was being permanently cancelled. But then the school district reversed its decision and announced that the slaughter project would be reinstated in Fall 2008.

However, in August, New York attorney Elinor Molbegott, legal counsel for the Humane Society of New York, intervened. In a letter to the Education Department dated August 5, 2008, attorney Molbegott pointed out that under Section 809 - Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals - of the NYS Education Law, “no school district, school principal, administrator or teacher shall require or permit the performance of a lesson or experimental study on a live vertebrate animal in any school or during any activity conducted under the auspices of a school where such lesson or experimental study employs termination of life.”

Attorney Molbegott pointed out that the law “further provides that the commissioner may upon submission of a written program plan issue a written waiver to such school for students in grades 10, 11 or 12 who are pursuing an accelerated course of study in the sciences in preparation for taking a state or national advanced placement examination and who are working under the supervision of certified science teachers.” Other exceptions in the law are for “vocational instruction in the normal practice of animal husbandry or environmental education activities as established by the Department of Environmental Conservation.”

Molbegott concluded that “The chicken slaughter activity did not fall into any of the exceptions for the waiver” and urged the Education Department “to review the chicken slaughter situation and to make it clear to schools that this is not permissible except as provided for in the law.” In subsequent letters to the Education Department (September 29; November 13), attorney Molbegott noted that the New York State Department of Education’s waiver form specifically makes reference to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), but that “the chicken rearing/killing project would be banned under the ISEF rules” which specifically state that “Research projects which cause more than momentary pain or suffering to vertebrate animals or which are designed to kill vertebrate animals are prohibited.”

Upon receiving attorney Molbegott’s initial letter of August 5, the NYS Education Department suspended the chicken slaughter project, because the Canandaigua City School District had failed to apply for a waiver from the department as required by law. School officials claimed they didn’t know there was a law requiring a waiver to slaughter chickens as a high school activity.

On October 16, 2008, the NYS Education Department stamped its receipt of a waiver application from the Canandaigua City School District for the “Chicken Project.” Attorney Molbegott then filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a copy of the school district’s application, which she received and faxed to United Poultry Concerns. The application has 15 pages but here are the basics:

Canandaigua School District APPLICATION:

1) Educational basis for requesting a waiver: “With the health of our youth and the environment in jeopardy, a high impact, real life lesson to raise awareness is essential. For a sustainable future, our current practices and habits need to be examined critically.”

2) The objective(s) of the lesson or experiment: “To make students aware of the true cost to their bodies, the animals and the environment of a diet high in animal products.”

3) The methods and techniques to be used. “The animals will be raised and slaughtered using current, humane husbandry techniques. Each bird will be given prescribed space and habitat. They will be slaughtered using the killing cone method.” (See UPC President Karen Davis’s letter below, regarding use of the killing cone.)

In addition, the school district’s application states as follows:

GOAL: “To enter into an agreement that will encourage the development of higher level skills in students by facilitating the transfer of students from Canandaigua Academy to Finger Lakes Community College.”

OBJECTIVES:

“To provide students with the opportunity to earn (3) three credit hours for: Ornamental Horticulture-Landscaping Development or Conservation Elective . . .
To better acquaint students with Finger Lakes Community College . . .
To foster an awareness of baccalaureate transfer programs upon completion of associate degree requirements.”
CANANDAIGUA CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT PROGRAM PLAN:

“The goal of the project is to make students aware of the true costs of consuming large amounts of animal products on their health, the animals’ wellbeing and the environment. There are 25 chickens used in this project [in] a class size of 75 students. The breed selected is a hybrid bird, genetically selected to grow large quickly. The birds reach maturity [ten pounds as noted elsewhere in the application – UPC Editor] at 8.5 weeks. They die at approximately 12-14 weeks because of difficulties due to obesity. A standard chicken is also raised to compare growth rates. Chickens are chosen because of space limitations. . . . . At the end of the 9-week period, the student groups are given a demonstration of current proper techniques to slaughter and butcher a chicken. The students, working in their groups with parental consent and an opt-out option, are given the opportunity to slaughter and butcher their chicken. After the birds have been butchered, they are prepared using various cooking techniques and a class meal of chicken and vegetarian alternatives is enjoyed by all participants.”

On November 13, attorney Elinor Molbegott, legal counsel for the Humane Society of New York, wrote to the Education Department, pursuant to her receipt of a copy of the waiver application submitted to the Education Department by the Canandaigua School District under the Freedom of Information Law, that “The Humane Society of New York remains strongly opposed to the proposed project which involves youngsters raising and killing chickens. We believe that there is absolutely no sound educational or legal basis for the issuance of a waiver. . . .”

UNITED POULTRY CONCERNS LETTER

UPC President Karen Davis’s Letter to the New York State Education Department via email (ACROTTY@MAIL.NYSED.GOV) and U.S. Postal Service:

November 19, 2008

Dr. Ann Crotty
Associate in Science Education
Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology
New York State Department of Education
89 Washington Avenue, Room 320EB
Albany, NY 12234

Re: Canandaigua Academy Chicken Slaughter Project

Dear Dr. Crotty:

I have carefully reviewed a copy of the waiver application submitted by the Canandaigua City School District to the New York State Education Department seeking approval to slaughter chickens at Canandaigua Academy. In the strongest possible terms I urge the Education Department to reject this application under New York State Education Law Section 809 - Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals.

The broadly generalized goal/objectives presented by the school district for the proposed slaughter – encouraging development of “higher level skills in students,” facilitating their transfer from Canandaigua Academy to Finger Lakes Community College,” providing an opportunity to earn credit hours for “Ornamental Horticulture-Landscaping Development or Conservation Elective,” and fostering “an awareness of baccalaureate transfer programs” – can be met by many other means. Killing chickens is neither necessary, nor even relevant, to fulfilling any of these purposes.

Regarding “(xvi) Termination of life,” the school district says on the application: “Chickens will have neck severed using the killing cone method considered to be very humane.” This vaguely worded statement, presented in the passive voice, epitomizes the carelessness of the entire application. Being immobilized in a killing cone while one’s throat is being sliced with a knife is not humane, let alone “very humane.”

The bird, in extreme pain, cannot even thrash – immobilization in a cone adds to the terrible death being endured. The only ones being “protected” are the observers and butchers, because they cannot see what is taking place inside the cone where the death throes and agony of dying are sealed up inside the container. As for “severing the neck,” does this mean decapitation? Or, if it means severing blood vessels within the neck without decapitation of the live bird, which blood vessels do they have in mind exactly? And what do they know about the very different functions and placement of the carotid arteries versus the jugular veins? Imagine if, instead of chickens, the “vertebrate animals” being subjected to this brutal treatment were dogs or cats. It has been scientifically established – it is no longer debated among reputable scientists – that the pain receptors and neurophysiology of birds and mammals, including human beings and chickens, are in essence and experientially identical. See, for example, “Pain In Birds” by Dr. Michael J. Gentle, Animal Welfare 1: 235-247, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 1992.

The very nature of the waiver application shows how poorly the students at Canandaigua Academy are being served by those who should be their role models, exemplifying the highest academic standards of thinking, writing and professional character. The Canandaigua School District, via local newspapers and the waiver application under review, has consistently advanced as “reasons” for slaughtering chickens every vague, far-fetched thing it could seize upon – teaching about “life and death,” about “world hunger,” “vegetarianism,” “where food comes from,” “factory farming,” and now “ornamental horticulture” and whatever else they can throw into the pot that will legitimize a wish, in the guise of “education,” to inflict death.

The teenagers at Canandaigua Academy, instead of being taught to kill innocent and defenseless birds – inhumanely shipped in 2007 from the Midwest to the school for this sad purpose like canned goods and luggage – these impressionable students need instead to be taught by their elders to respect life and protect living beings from preventable harm and death. There is no necessity whatsoever in the goal/objectives set forth in the school district’s waiver application for the infliction of death on vertebrate animals as a high school curriculum exercise. On the contrary.

I respectfully urge the New York State Education Department to deny the Canandaigua City School District’s waiver application to kill chickens under Education Law 809 - Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals. Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your decision.

Sincerely,

Karen Davis, PhD
President
United Poultry Concerns


For more information, contact United Poultry Concerns.

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