By Karen Davis, Ph.D., United Poultry Concerns
Many people talk casually about slaughtering chickens for meat, but when a wanton act of intentional cruelty is committed against chickens, as happened in North Pole on Monday, May 24, when 26 chickens were found beheaded outside their coop, attitudes shift to anger against the abusers and compassion for the chickens. People want the perpetrators to be captured and punished, as indeed they should be.
Three chickens were left alive by the North Pole attacker. These birds had to watch as their defenseless flockmates were brutally dismembered before their eyes in the early morning hours. They were traumatized by the carnage they witnessed, as Joshua Saul sympathetically writes in his article about the attack (“North Pole Chicken Killer,” Alaska Dispatch, May 25, 2010).
Traumatized is right. Lest anyone think that chickens somehow don’t mind seeing and hearing other chickens scream and die violently in front of them, nothing could be further from the truth. I once received a letter from a man in Virginia who described how a flock of chickens raised in a commune he belonged to at the time were slaughtered in front of each other. Three hens and a rooster managed to flee the scene. They disappeared for more than two weeks, before reappearing, timidly, and never again trustingly. Their behavior after the slaughter was totally altered, the man sadly observed.
In Alaska there is enormous respect for the state’s wildlife. People realize the preciousness and importance of the many creatures who live and thrive within the great state. Seeing wolves and bears and other creatures look out for themselves and their young in the wild places they inhabit inspires awe and respect and a sense of kinship with these animals among many. Yet it can easily be forgotten that animals such as chickens weren’t always domesticated, and that the call of the wild is in their hearts too.
Escaped chickens are famous for their ability to throw off domestication and become feral, reviving their natural behaviors and living very well on their own. This makes sense given that chickens evolved in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Embedded in their genes is a memory of the rugged, vibrant terrain they started out in, which is still populated today by their wild relatives known as the jungle fowl. The large white chickens who were tortured to death on Monday had all of the sensitivity and intelligence of their jungle-fowl relatives, even if their temperaments were, and are, quieter and more placid in some respects.
I would like to think that the family to whom these chickens belonged will choose not to kill the three who were spared, but will treat them kindly – extra kindly – after what happened. And I hope that the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of this vicious attack will be vigorously pursued by law enforcement, captured, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. No one deserves to be treated the way these chickens were treated, and no one deserves to get away with it.