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"It Takes Courage to Support Animals' Dignity" by UPC President Karen Davis

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    United Poultry Concerns - http://www.UPC-online.org 15 December 2011 It Takes Courage to Support Animals Dignity by UPC President Karen Davis Portland
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 15, 2011
      United Poultry Concerns - http://www.UPC-online.org
      15 December 2011

      "It Takes Courage to Support Animals' Dignity" by UPC President Karen Davis
      Portland Tribune (Oregon), December 15, 2011, Front-Page, Insight Page

      Karen's Guest Opinion:

      Portland Tribune
      Guest Opinion

      It takes courage to support animals' dignity

      Three Views * Science, nature point the way for animal advocates

      By Karen Davis
      , Dec 15, 2011
      (news photo)


      Animal rights means that other animal species have moral claims on us based on
      their nature as expressed in behaviors, including their voices, that tell us
      who they are and what they desire to do and not do.

      Animal rights means that the claims of other species, as fellow creatures with
      feelings, should be recognized in the form of laws that define and protect
      their interests and provide them with a vicarious voice in the form of legal

      The science of ethology, which studies animal behavior in natural and
      contrived settings, has produced a copious amount of literature and audiovisual
      material that, added to centuries of anecdotal observation, provides ample
      grounds for according legal rights to nonhuman animals.

      As a (nonlegal) advocate for animals since the 1980s and founder of an
      organization that promotes compassionate and respectful treatment of chickens
      and other domestic fowl, I'm familiar with the arguments that are used to
      silence opposition to the cruelty imposed on birds in farming operations (New
      law school program unleashes animal rights, Nov. 24).

      Ironically, we're charged with "anthropomorphism" for saying the birds suffer,
      while simultaneously being told that only "happy" chickens lay tons of eggs and
      put on mountains of weight in enforced, sedentary confinement. In fact, they're
      manipulated genetically and by other means to do abnormal biological things at
      the expense of their well-being.

      For example, chickens bred for meat production go to slaughter lame and in
      pain, as demonstrated by numerous studies showing that their bones cannot
      support their growth rate and body weight. Chickens offered a choice of food
      mixed with pain-relieving medication choose it.

      The fact that these chickens (and turkeys) develop heart ailments in their
      infancy, and suffer from a multitude of bizarre production diseases, shows that
      they are not happy or adapted to the conditions imposed on them.

      As a sanctuary director for more than 25 years on the Eastern Shore of Maryland
      and Virginia, one of the largest chicken-producing areas in the country, I know
      firsthand the abnormal and appalling suffering of these birds, bereft of legal

      By the same token, it is not complicated to know what a chicken needs and wants
      to do to be healthy and happy.

      Visit our sanctuary in Virginia and you will see that chickens want to be out
      of their houses each morning and into their spacious yards and wooded areas to
      forage, sunbathe, dustbathe and socialize together. They want to roost up high
      together at night on perches, reflecting the fact that chickens evolved in the
      tropical forest and slept in trees, and still do. They want to run on their
      legs and flap their wings, nest and do all the things they evolved to do, as
      reflected in their overt behavior – unless their natural behavior is thwarted
      and distorted, as it is in crowded confinement situations with boring food,
      mutilated beaks, and no outlets for their time and energies.

      The reason that even intelligent people insist we can't know what an animal of
      another species wants to do is simple: What animals want to do conflicts with
      what we want to do with them, and to them, and how we want to use, misuse and
      abuse them.

      Acknowledging that other animal species have interests, preferences, desires,
      dislikes, aversions, affinities and so forth would require moral obligations
      and radical changes in our behavior toward them. Let's stop pretending we
      don't know, or can't know, what a chicken or a goat or a chimpanzee desires to
      do. I know what our chickens want to do because I watch them choose their daily
      activities in an environment that stimulates their interests.

      For instance, chickens released from a long siege in a cage and placed on the
      ground almost invariably start making the tentative, increasingly vigorous
      gestures of taking a dustbath. They paddle and fling the dirt with their claws,
      rake in particles of earth with their beaks, fluff up their feathers, roll on
      their sides, pause with their eyes closed, and stretch out their legs in
      obvious relish at being able to bask luxuriously and satisfy their urge to
      clean themselves and to be clean, as well as engage in the highly social
      activity of dustbathing together.

      Dustbathing is one of many examples I can give of knowing what chickens desire
      to do as demonstrated by what they choose to do. My knowledge fits that of the
      ages going back to Plutarch and other recorders of chickens' behavior, in which
      genetic patterns combine with the birds' learning abilities.

      A question that confronts us as a society is whether we have the decency and
      courage to start codifying our accumulated knowledge of other animal species
      and proliferation of findings about them into laws that uphold animals' dignity
      and protect their interests. By interests, I mean their bodily integrity, their
      biological and cognitive repertoires, and their habitats.

      Karen Davis, Ph.D., is president and founder of United Poultry Concerns. She
      maintains a sanctuary for domestic fowl in Virginia.

      Copyright 2011 Pamplin Media Group, 6605 S.E. Lake Road, Portland, OR 97222 *

      UPC Note: In the published opinion (corrected above), the word "ethology" in
      paragraph 3 somehow got wrongly translated as "ethnology." ETHOLOGY - the word
      I actually used - is the study of the characteristic behavior patterns of
      nonhuman animals. "Ethnology" is a branch of anthropology that studies
      comparative human cultures and characteristics. The right word in this context
      is ETHOLOGY. Karen Davis

      United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the
      compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
      Don't just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
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