The Hen is a Symbol of Motherhood for Reasons We May Have Forgotten,  So Let Us Recall

*By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

*”Her love of her children definitely resembles my love of mine.” *
– Alice Walker

*”The emphasis has been on smaller, more efficient but lighter-weight *
*egg machines.” *
– American Poultry History

In our day, the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” In previous
eras, she
embodied the essence of motherhood. In the first century AD, the Roman
Plutarch praised the many ways in which mother hens cherish and protect
chicks, “drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with
and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them
from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are
frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their children, they
stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.”

The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi described how, at the first sign
of a
predator, mother hens will immediately gather their chicks “under the
shadow of
their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce defense –
striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor, using
wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek safety in
flight.” Similarly, in collecting food, the mother hen allows her chicks to
their fill before satisfying her own hunger. Thus, he said, mother hens
in every way, “a noble example of love for their offspring.”

I saw this love in action, when a hen named Eva jumped our sanctuary fence
on a
spring day and disappeared, only to return three weeks later in June with
fluffy chicks. Watching Eva with her tiny brood close behind her was like
watching a family of wild birds whose dark and golden feathers blended
with the woods and foliage they melted in and out of during the day.
Periodically, Eva would squat down with her feathers puffed out, and her
chicks would all run under her wings for comfort and warmth. A few minutes
the family was on the move again.

One day, a large dog wandered in front of the magnolia tree where Eva and
chicks were foraging. With her wings outspread and curved menacingly toward
dog, she rushed at him over and over, cackling loudly, all the while
to push her chicks behind herself with her wings. The dog stood stock still
before the excited mother hen and soon ambled away, but Eva maintained her
aggressive posture, her sharp, repetitive cackles and attentive lookout for
several minutes after he was gone.

Sitting on her nest, a mother hen carefully turns each of her eggs as often
thirty times a day, using her body, her feet, and her beak to move each egg
precisely in order to maintain the proper temperature, moisture,
humidity, and position of the egg during the 3-week incubation period.
chicks respond to soothing sounds from the mother hen and to warning cries
the rooster. Two or three days before the chicks are ready to hatch, they
peeping to notify their mother and siblings that they are ready to emerge
their shells, and to draw her attention to any distress they’re experiencing
such as cold or abnormal positioning.

A communication network is established among the baby birds and between
them and
their mother, who must stay calm while all the peeping, sawing, and
breaking of
eggs goes on underneath her as she meanwhile picks off tiny pieces of shell
may be sticking to her chicks and slays any ants that may dart in to
During all this time, as Page Smith and Charles Daniel describe in The
Chicken <>
Book <>, “The
chorus of peeps goes on virtually uninterrupted, the unborn chicks
peeping away, the newborn ones singing their less muffled song.”

During the first four to eight weeks or so, the chicks stay close to their
mother, gathering beneath her wings every night at dusk. Eventually, she
up to her perch or a tree branch, indicating her sense that they, and she,
ready for independence.

Whenever I tell people stories about chickens enjoying themselves, many
very sad. The pictures I’m showing them are so different from the ones
used to seeing of chickens in a state of absolute misery. *The New York
restaurant critic William Grimes wrote of a beautiful black hen who entered
life unexpectedly one day, an apparent escapee from a poultry market in
“I looked at the Chicken endlessly, and I wondered. What lay behind the
veil of
animal secrecy? Did she have a personality, for one thing?” His curiosity is
satisfied by close acquaintance with and observation of the endearing bird.
the end of his bittersweet book My Fine Feathered Friend
<>, he and his wife Nancy
“had grown to love the Chicken.”

We have to start looking at chickens differently, so that we may see them as
Alice Walker described her encounter with a hen she watched crossing the
one day with three little chicks in Bali. In her essay, “Why Did the
Chicken Cross the Road?” in Living By the Word
<>, Walker writes:

It is one of those moments that will be engraved on my brain forever. For
really *saw* her. She was small and gray, flecked with black; so were her
chicks. She had a healthy red comb and quick, light-brown eyes. She was
proud, chunky chicken shape that makes one feel always that chickens, and
especially, have personality and *will*. Her steps were neat and quick and
authoritative; and though she never touched her chicks, it was obvious
she was
shepherding them along. She clucked impatiently when, our feet falling
nearer, one of them, especially self-absorbed and perhaps hard-headed,
to respond.

Let us with equal justice perceive chickens with envisioned eyes that
pierce the
veil of these birds’ “mechanization” and apprehend the truth of who they
are. In
*The Chicken Book*, Page Smith and Charles Daniel remind us, most
poignantly: “As
each chick emerges from its shell in the dark cave of feathers underneath
mother, it lies for a time like any newborn creature, exhausted, naked, and
extremely vulnerable. And as the mother may be taken as the epitome of
motherhood, so the newborn chick may be taken as an archetypal
representative of
babies of all species, human and animal alike, just brought into the world.”

This is What Wings Are For.


KAREN DAVIS, PhD <> is the President
and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a
nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful
of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. She is the
author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern
Industry, More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and
The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities and
groundbreaking publications.

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.


Prayer Circle for Animals #371: International Respect for Chickens

April 23, 2018

*Please Join Us For Our Daily Noon Prayer*


And Our Prayer for the Week from Judy Carman

*MONTH*. Let’s get ready. This event was introduced by United Poultry
Concerns in
2005 “to celebrate chickens throughout the world and protest the bleakness
their lives in farming operations.” UPC suggests many possible actions we
take, as well as posters and handouts to order, on the website. This Sikh
brings home the truth that chickens are precious individuals who love life
as we do. “A man was once given a chicken by his guru and told to go and
kill it
[him or her] where nobody could see. The man tried and tried to find a place
where he could kill the chicken without anybody’s seeing and finally gave
up and
went back to the guru. ‘Why couldn’t you find a place where nobody would
see you
kill the chicken?’ asked the guru. ‘Because everywhere I went, the chicken
said the man.” (From *How to Think if You Want to Change the World*, p. 138)

Poultry Concerns and all the activists who have worked tirelessly for years
show the world that chickens are amazing, courageous, beautiful and loving
beings. We give thanks for all the information we have now to help us
pre-vegans. We ask for blessings of peace for every single individual among
billions who are being killed. For while the killing machines grind on, we
that each precious chicken has lost friends, children, mothers, and suffered
terrible pain and heartache. We honor and memorialize them all—the fallen.
we pray for strength, clarity and inner peace, that we may stand in
with them as long as it takes to win their freedom from human violence at
And as our tears fall for them, may we also feel that spiritual joy that
from being awakened to our very real kinship with chickens. What a blessing
is to know that they are our friends, not our food. Help us to be love and
bring love to all people and all beings. As always, I send my thanks to
each of
you, dear Prayer Circle members, for joining this circle of compassion and
shining the Light of Truth for all to see, so that one day soon, all beings
be free.

*May compassion and love reign over all the earth for all beings
*Thank you all for your devotion to truth, love, liberation and peace for

With Love, peace, and gratitude from Judy Carman, and greetings from Will,
Madeleine, and the Circle of Compassion team.

*PLEASE SHARE* this prayer by going to the Prayer Circle for Animals
Facebook <>.
This prayer is posted there. You can also share ideas and prayer requests on
that facebook.

*PLEASE VISIT* the Circle of Compassion website
<> for “A prayer a day for animals;”
and the Daily Noon Prayer. To help expand this ministry, donations are
gratefully accepted.

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.

View this article online

Egg Industry Ballot Measures Seek to Legalize Battery Cages in California

Vote NO on Proposition (TBA)

“This initiative should be fiercely opposed by everyone who cares about farm animal suffering. HSUS’s collusion with the egg industry is disturbing. From legalizing battery cages to allowing as little as one square foot of space per hen — this initiative would be a disaster for millions of egg-laying hens who would still be left suffering in battery cages throughout California.”

— Friends of Animals (FoA)
Email Address*

Egg Industry Ballot Measures Seek to Legalize Battery Cages in California

The United Egg Producers and the Association of California Egg Farmers are each pushing measures for 2018 that would explicitly legalize battery cages throughout California.

In nearly identical measures, these industry trade associations are attempting to repeal California’s present hen-housing law which was overwhelmingly approved by voters 10 years ago. That law, though not without issues, states that egg-laying hens must be given enough space to be able to “fully spread both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.”

The industry’s measures would repeal that — and replace it with language that explicitly legalizes battery cages throughout the state. And regardless of whether the hens are in cages or in horrific multi-level “cage-free” factory systems, the industry needs only to provide hens with one square foot of space per hen. For political cover, the United Egg Producers (UEP) is relying upon the co-opted Humane Society of the United States and tag-alongs who are gathering signatures to put the egg industry’s toxic measure on the ballot.

Read more >

The “Easter” Chick – A Lost Soul

By Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

*Easter Egg Hunt and Egg Gathering*

The association of a hen’s egg with Easter and Spring survives ironically
in the
annual children’s Easter Egg Hunt, for the origin of this ritual has been
largely forgotten.

Traditionally, the finding of eggs was identified with the finding of
The search for eggs was part of farm life, because a free hen sensibly lays
eggs in a sheltered and secluded spot. Today’s children hunt for eggs that
laid by a hen imprisoned in a mechanized building, most likely in a wire
The widespread disappearance of the home chicken flock in the 1950s ended
gathering of eggs laid by a hen in the place she chose for her nest.
Page Smith writes in *The Chicken Book*, “My contemporaries who have such
memories of chickens from the unpleasant chores of their youth had
already the consequences of putting living creatures in circumstances that
inherently uncongenial to them.”

Wilbor Wilson provides the background to this change in *American Poultry*
*History*. He writes: “As the size of poultry ranches increased, the chore
of egg
gathering became drudgery instead of pleasure. Rollaway nests with sloping
floors made of hardware cloth offered a partial solution, but the number of
floor eggs increased when the hens did not readily adopt the wire-floored
This changed with development of the cage system which left the hen no

*The Hen as a Symbol of Motherhood*

In our day, the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” In previous eras
embodied the essence of motherhood. The First Century CE Roman historian and
biographer Plutarch wrote of the mother hen in *De amore parentis* [
*love*]: “What of the hens whom we observe each day at home, with what care
assiduity they govern and guard their chicks? Some let down their wings for
chicks to come under; others arch their backs for them to climb upon; there
no part of their bodies with which they do not wish to cherish their chicks
they can, nor do they do this without a joy and alacrity which they seem to
exhibit by the sound of their voices.”

In Matthew 23:37, the mother hen is evoked to express the spirit of
yearning and
protective love: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I wished to gather
children together, even as a hen gathers together her chicks.”

The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi wrote of mother hens in the 16th

They follow their chicks with such great love that, if they see or spy at
distance any harmful animal, such as a kite or a weasel or someone even
stalking their little ones, the hens first gather them under the shadow of
their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce
– striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor,
both wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek
in flight. . . . Thus they present a noble example in love of their
as also when they feed them, offering the food they have collected and
neglecting their own hunger.

*The Role of the Rooster*

The family role of the rooster is nowadays less well known to most people
the motherhood of the hen. The charm of seeing a rooster with his hens
in Chaucer’s portrait of Chanticleer in *The Canterbury Tales*:

This cock had in his princely sway and measure
Seven hens to satisfy his every pleasure,
Who were his sisters and his sweethearts true,
Each wonderfully like him in her hue,
Of whom the fairest-feathered throat to see
Was fair Dame Partlet. Courteous was she,
Discreet, and always acted debonairly.

In ancient times, the rooster was esteemed for his sexual vigor; it is said
a healthy young rooster may mate as often as thirty or more times a day. The
rooster thus figures in religious history as a symbol of divine fertility
the life force. In his own world of chickendom, the rooster – the cock – is
father, a lover, a brother, a food-finder, a guardian, and a sentinel.

Aldrovandi extolled the rooster’s domestic virtues:

He is for us the example of the best and truest father of a family. For
he not
only presents himself as a vigilant guardian of his little ones, and in
morning, at the proper time, invites us to our daily labor; but he sallies
forth as the first, not only with his crowing, by which he shows what
must be
done, but he sweeps everything, explores and spies out everything.

Finding food, “he calls both hens and chicks together to eat it while he
like a father and host at a banquet . . . inviting them to the feast,
by a single care, that they should have something to eat. Meanwhile he
about to find something nearby, and when he has found it, he calls his
again in a loud voice. They run to the spot. He stretches himself up, looks
around for any danger that may be near, runs about the entire poultry yard,
and there plucking up a grain or two for himself without ceasing to invite
others to follow him.”

A nineteenth-century poultry keeper wrote to his friend that his Shanghai
was “very attentive to his Hens, and exercises a most fatherly care over the
Chicks in his yard. . . . He frequently would allow them to perch on his
and in this manner carry them into the house, and then up the chicken


*KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns

It’s Hard to Be Ethically Consistent While Tap-Dancing on Eggshells

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them.

Over the weekend I received the following question, which I’ll attempt to answer below…


Dear Mr. Robertson,

I was wondering your opinion on the subject of animal rights vs. the rights of indigenous people. What do you think about hunting by Native American tribes, or the hunting of seals by the Inuit? Also, of course, the various other tribes around the world that have their culture based off of hunting. What do you think about their participation in hunting, trapping, etc?


Hmmm, one of those questions…one of those I-wouldn’t-touch-that-with-a-ten-foot-pole kind of questions. Do I risk being called a hypocrite, or “culturally elite?” I could spend all day tip-toeing around this—tap-dancing on egg shells—but here’s an answer just off the top of my head:

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them (unless someone is literally starving to death and has no other options, which is not the case for most who hunt, trap, club seals, harpoon whales or trade in bushmeat).

Why oppose the Japanese or the Faeroese for slaughtering dolphins or pilot whales and not the Makah for killing grey whales, or even the Inuit for hunting bowhead whales? We’re all part of the species, Homo sapiens, and our ancestors all used to live by hunting and trapping. For better or worse, we’re all moving forward technologically, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t all move forward in our treatment of non-human animals.

That’s my humble opinion, anyway. It might not be popular, but it’s ethically consistent.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Animal People and Sexual Misconduct

As revolting as the revelations about some HSUS officials are, those who
recently resigned or were let go did at least bring farmed animals as
individuals with feelings and intelligence into mainstream focus for the
time in HSUS history. This is not to excuse anything, but to say that a
in HSUS leadership and workplace conduct may not mean that the organization
now show more progressive leadership on behalf of farmed animals and
veganism. I
worry it will revert to its more traditional programs and attitudes even if
offensive office behavior is eliminated.

As for sexual harassment of women and worse, while women rightly object to
treated as objects whose bodies may be physically assaulted and
disrespected by
men, this experience, magnified a trillion times over, is precisely what
chickens and pigs and cows and all farmed animals, “laboratory” animals,
animals, “entertainment” animals and others endure endlessly at the hands
of our

If we are outraged that certain male employees in our movement have
their female colleagues physically and professionally, we had better stand
and be counted for our nonhuman animal victims for whom interspecies sexual
assault and every form of intimate, repulsive violence perpetrated by human
beings against them and their bodies is their experience of being alive in
flesh. Veganism is not a superficial “food choice.” It is ethical activism
behalf of the most profoundly, helplessly victimized beings on the planet.

Animal agriculture is now, and always has been, rooted in violating the sex
organs, mating choices, and reproductive processes of helpless animals.
“breeding” animals – the very word breeding – is an obscenity. We cannot
to care about animals while obscenely consuming their muscles, their nursing
mother’s milk and their eggs, or suggesting to others that these
obscenities may
be practiced “humanely.”

As animal advocates, we must amplify the animals’ voices and be their
Voice: “ME

For a comprehensive look at interspecies sexual assault of farmed animals
business and pleasure, please see and share my article Interspecies Sexual
Assault: A Moral Perspective

Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns

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.

View this article online

The Humane Society of the United States accepts the resignation of Wayne Pacelle as president and CEO

The Humane Society of the United States announced that it has accepted the resignation of Wayne Pacelle, as president and CEO, effective immediately.  Wayne has served in this capacity since 2004, and previously served for 10 years as the organization chief political and communications operative.

The HSUS has named Kitty Block as acting president and CEO. Ms. Block, an attorney, is currently president of Humane Society International, The HSUS’s global affiliate.

“The last few days have been very hard for our entire family of staff and supporters,” said Rick Bernthal, Chairman of the Board of The HSUS.  “We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”

“We are most grateful to Kitty for stepping forward to lead the organization as we continue to advance our mission, which has never been more important,” added Bernthal.

Ms. Block has served at The HSUS since 1992, first as a legal investigator to the investigations department, then to oversee international policy work related to international trade and treaties. In 2007, she was promoted to Vice President of Humane Society International, later to Senior Vice President, and last year became President of this affiliate overseeing all HSI international campaigns and programs. Ms. Block received a law degree from The George Washington University in 1990 and a bachelor’s degree in communications and philosophy from the University of New Hampshire in 1986.

Additionally, The HSUS announced the resignation of Board member Erika Brunson.

CEO Of The Humane Society Resigns Amid Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Wayne Pacelle, former CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, at a 2015 news conference. Pacelle resigned Friday.

Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States

The president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, has resigned effective immediately, the nonprofit group announced Friday.

Pacelle had been at the center of a controversy over allegations that he had sexually harassed three female subordinates at the Humane Society, one of the country’s largest animal charities.

The move came a day after the group’s board of directors had voted to keep Pacelle despite the allegations dating to 2005.

In a statement, Humane Society Board Chair Rick Bernthal said:

“The last few days have been very hard for our entire family of staff and supporters. We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”

Bernthal said that the president of the Humane Society’s international affiliate, Kitty Block, has been named as acting chief executive.

The development came just hours after Bernthal had defended the group’s decision yesterday to allow Pacelle to remain as CEO. In a statement, Bernthal said that after an investigation:

“The board reviewed the information assembled and determined that there was not sufficient evidence to remove Wayne Pacelle from his position as CEO.

“Many of the allegations were explosive in nature, and reading or hearing about them is a shock to anyone. It was to us, too. But when we sifted through the evidence presented, we did not find that many of these allegations were supported by credible evidence.”

Bernthal also denied that his group had offered settlements to three other workers who said they were dismissed or demoted after raising concerns about Pacelle’s alleged sexual misconduct. “The Board concluded that there was no motivation behind severance agreements to silence women who had spoken up or raised concerns,” he said.

After the board voted to retain Pacelle, the CEO acknowledged that the controversy was taking a toll.

Pacelle had told the New York Times earlier on Friday that he was assessing his future professional life:

“‘I’m going to take stock of everyone’s opinion and assess where I go and where the organization goes from here,’ he said. ‘I think leadership changes at organizations are often very healthy and renewing, and I’m going to talk with staff and board members and find the best course that [contributes] to our mission of fighting for all animals.’ ”

Yet pressure was building for Pacelle’s dismissal from both inside and out the organization, with major donors announcing that they were withdrawing their support from the group.

In a statement earlier Friday, the president of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt, had called for Pacelle’s firing:

“Like Donald Trump, the Humane Society is engaged in a cover up in plain sight. Instead of trying to enable a sexual abuser, they should dismiss him. Instead of making excuses, they should be making reparations. Instead of silencing or attacking women who’ve suffered abuse, and those who defend them, the Humane Society should change its own culture.

“The Humane Society needs to know this. Women are watching. We know when a charity deserves our support, and when it fails the most basic obligations of trust.

“The Humane Society has no humanity. Fire Wayne Pacelle. Do it now.”

The initial decision to retain Pacelle also had led to the resignation of seven protesting board members.

PETA asks government to tax meat, other animal derived foods

PETA India, in a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, requested him to consider taxing meat and other animal derived foods to discourage their consumption.


NEW DELHI: Animal rights body PETA asked the government to levy a tax on meat and other animal derived foods for their damaging effects on environment and public health, on the lines of a similar tax imposed on tobacco.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, in a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, requested him to consider taxing meat and other animal derived foods to discourage their consumption.

PETA India asks that India tax meat and other animal derived foods for their damaging effects on the environment and the public’s health the same way there are increased taxes in countries around the world on other unhealthy or damaging goods such as tobacco,” said Nikunj Sharma, Lead–Public Policy, PETA India.

In India, the consumption of beef, chicken, eggs, dairy and other animal derived foods is on a rapid rise, it said, asserting that between 2003 and 2013, meat consumption more than doubled in the country.

While vegetarian and vegan eating is also increasing (between 2004 and 2014, there was a five per cent growth in the number of vegetarians in India), the amount of meat, eggs or dairy foods consumed per person in India is the highest it has been in history and it is projected to grow further.

India’s chicken meat consumption is growing annually at about 12 per cent, the letter said.

“This extraordinary upsurge in the consumption and production of these foods in India adversely impacts animals, of course, but also the health of its citizens, water availability, air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change and food supply to the poor in colossal ways,” it said.

It said India now tops the charts in many diet-related ailments and pointed out that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in India, while stroke was also a main cause of death and disability in the country.

It said India is also the world leader in diabetes, its cancer rate is out of control, and childhood obesity is at a crisis point.

It asserted that India is home to 20 per cent of the world’s cattle and buffalo population and 11 per cent of world goat and sheep population, which are bred predominantly to be used for meat or dairy production.

The animal rights body said according to satellite data from our space programme, ruminant animals transfer almost 12 million tonnes of methane–which traps 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does–into the atmosphere via flatulence every year.

It said while India tops the world hunger list with 194 million people and as 77 million people in the country lack access to safe water, the production of meat, eggs and dairy foods uses one-third of the world’s fresh water resources as well as one-third of the world’s global cropland as feed for animals.

“Taxing meat could discourage citizens from consuming these damaging products and could bring in revenue that could help support costs related to damage to public health and the environment because of meat, eggs and dairy foods.

“Won’t India, a country known for its cultural respect for animals, and with a Constitution that requires all of its citizens to protect and improve the natural environment…and to have compassion for living creatures take the lead on taxing meat and other animal derived foods?” it asked.