In my March 4 Daily Messenger essay, “Abraham Lincoln Was Devoted to Animals,” I wrote that the Lincoln White House has become a sanctuary for animals – cats, dogs, goats, rabbits and horses. When a turkey arrived at the White House destined to become a holiday meal, Lincoln’s son Tad befriended the turkey and named him Jack. Tad interrupted a Cabinet meeting to implore his father to spare the life of the turkey. The president complied and Jack became a resident of the White House.

Before I became a committed vegan and animal advocate, I viewed turkeys and chickens as my favorite food choices, not sentient beings worthy of moral consideration. In my late forties, I largely abstained from eating meat, but a couple of times I relapsed when I had the opportunity to eat roast turkey with all the trimmings or chicken. fried from the south. Since I attended an animal rights conference in Washington, DC, in 1995, I have continually refrained from eating meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products.

One of the interesting people I met at the conference was Karen Davis, vegan, animal rights activist and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit that shows people new ways to identify with themselves. chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds which are generally exploited. for human consumption. UPC educates the public about the ways in which poultry are subjected to hellish lives and deaths, and promotes humane alternatives through education, social activism, protests and vigils.

Many years ago, a student at Canandaigua Academy asked me to help her save the lives of some 20 chickens, which were about to be slaughtered by students participating in a “project”. chicken ‘school involving the raising of chickens for human consumption. I called Davis, who then coordinated his own “Chicken Project” which luckily ended when the birds were finally allowed to become permanent residents of the beautiful Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen.

Davis is also a prolific writer. This summer, I read his book “For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation, Essays on Chickens, Turkeys and other domesticated Fowl”. The book describes the heinous and repulsive cruelty to which these birds are subjected. For example, when raised on factory farms for human consumption, they suffer from dehydration, respiratory illnesses, bacterial infections, paralyzed legs, and other serious ailments. Davis explains that “as long as people want billions of eggs and millions of pounds of flesh … there will be mobs and cruelty … and we ingest their misery.”

Davis adds that “Pessimism about the outcome of an atrocity is not the same as feeling or being ineffective in one’s commitment to mitigate the atrocity. ”

One of the many ways Davis makes a difference is evident in his sanctuary in Virginia, where rescued birds thrive in a loving, respectful, predator-proof, and compassionate environment. On one occasion in the 1980s, Davis traveled hundreds of miles to bring seven ancient battery-cage hens back to the sanctuary. In “For the Birds,” Davis writes: “Once their anxiety and fear had subsided, the hens would sit quietly in the car, sometimes standing up to stretch a leg or a wing, while looking under their pale and hanging combs. while I was driving and telling them about the life that awaited them. Then, an amazing thing happened. The most naked, pitiful hen started to walk slowly from the backseat, through the passenger seat divider, towards me. She crawled on my lap and settled on my lap for the remainder of the trip.

Davis’s description of his relationship over the decades with the birds at the sanctuary has shown him that they “are conscious and emotional beings with adaptable sociability and a range of intentions and personalities … When chickens are happy , their sense of well-being undoubtedly resonates.

Davis denounces the fact that people are “programmed not to perceive ‘food’ animals as individuals with feelings, let alone creatures with projects of their own and of which they have been stripped. ”

Only a few of the billions of bird victims are lucky enough to be rescued from slaughterhouses, overcrowded and dirty cages, piles of dead birds they were thrown into alive or manure pits they fall into.

“For the Birds” is a powerful and well-written book that reveals the complex and socially rich lives of animals that have generally been excluded from our circle of compassion. Davis’ account of how she became an animal rights activist, how she puts a face to rescued animals and their rescuers, and her chapter on “Moving Beyond the Rhetoric of Apology in Animal Rights” are particularly memorable.

In the foreword to the book, Robert Grillo – author of “Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture” – wrote that “when I finally landed on Karen Davis’ United Poultry Concerns website in 2009, I realized that I had found not only a large repository of solid information about chickens, but also a truly evolved way to care for and associate with them.

If you read “Pour les oiseaux” and / or one of Davis’ other books (“Poisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry”; “More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual and Reality “;” The Holocaust and the History of the Chicken Coop: A Case to Compare Atrocities; A Home for Henny ” [a children’s book]; “Instead of chicken, instead of turkey: a poultry potpourri without poultry” [a vegan cookbook]), I hope you will understand better why our fellow human beings deserve our compassion and respect.

Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.

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