Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Food production class ruffles feathers

Did you hear the one about the girl who had a chicken?

No it's not a yoke.

Whitney Hillman a high school student from Concordia, Kan. kidnapped her chicken, Chicklet, to save it from being slaughtered as part of an animal science and food production class.
The teen who says she loves animals and wants to study zoology enrolled in an animal science and food production class.  Because I grew up on a farm, I realize that some animals are destined to enter the food chain, but apparently she did not.

When she found out that she would have to raise the chicken and then slaughter it, her feathers were ruffled.  With the help of her parents, she and Chicklet flew the coop.  Chicklet has apparently gone into the food animal protection program and Hillmen landed 2 days of in-school suspension. 

I have some mixed emotions about this story.  I don't know why Hillman couldn't opt out of the class or simply talk to the instructor about her feelings about not killing the chicken which she says became her pet. 

But 98% of America is disconnected from where their food comes from, so I'm all for a class that educates those who do want to learn the process from egg to chicken fried dinner. 

What is the happy medium? 

Photo from KC Star, Tom Dorsey


  1. I tried multiple times to ask the teacher to release me from the "project," but he repeatedly told me no. I even asked him to let me buy the chicken and my family found a place for him to go...and I asked him at a football game with my family present. He told me no. I sat back down and cried. I realized some animals were destined to enter the food chain, but THIS animal which he told us to name, care for and raise...I could not allow to be food. I would have never forgiven myself. This is just not a project for every kid. If a project is traumatic to even one kid, (which it was traumatic to several who have shared their stories with me, but are afraid to speak up in our agricultural community)then it's a project that should be removed. The LEAST I asked for in my essay was parental permission slips (which were not given), and list the class on the registration as Livestock and Poultry Production rather than animal science like it said AND warn students that there will be slaughtering involved. I don't think that's something anyone would just naturally suspect to do at high school. What I really hope for is that they will remove it from the curriculum all together. Thank you for writing a blog that is intelligently and politely stating your case. That's why I chose yours to respond to. You were respectful and so I think you deserve my respect in return. I just wanted to clarify those things with you so you had more information. I respect your opinion and only ask that people, though they may not agree with me, please understand. Thank you! Whitney Hillman

  2. Whitney,
    Thanks so much for adding "the rest of the story." I sincerely wish that the whole situation could have been resolved differently. Sometimes the zeal to educate can push people past their limits. Sometimes we need to rein in our passion or determination to "teach." I know a lot of people who don't want to know anything about where their food comes from. I applaud your desire to learn more about agriculture and hope this hasn't soured you from that.

  3. As an educator who has worked with all age groups from 5 to 75, I applaud both of you for opening a discussion about the place of slaughter in high school classes. I agree with Ms. Hillman with regard to permission and/or exemption slips from parents. I also appreciate the compassionate position of the Donohues. I firmly believe that young people need to know from whence all of their food comes, but perhaps this class did go a bit far without explaining enough about what Chicklet's future was. And the naming thing: it's always a bad idea if you're going to eat it.

    Our off-homestead schedules keep us from having food animals for now, but it doesn't mean we haven't discussed it extensively. I was raised in part by a woman I thought was a delicate Georgia peach, my grandmother. Imagine my surprise when I discovered shortly after she died that my grandparents had a chicken shop in the early days of the Depression, and it was my grandmother's job to wring the chickens' necks before they went out the door. I keep thinking, if she could do it, I can. I've even gotten permission from the local farm where we get out chickens to help with the slaughter. (You can find out more about the farm here: along with some rare overt political talk about farming.) We're going to make sure we can coyote-proof some laying hens first at our place before we move on to raising poultry for the meat.

    Then I think of my blogger friend Polly of Polly's Path. When Polly got a turkey egg this spring and named the poultry that came out of it "Giblet," I thought how wise she was to go ahead and name it food from the start, just to reinforce what that egg's purpose was after hatching. Do a search for "Giblet" on her blog and you'll discover what happened. Yep, she bonded with what was supposed to be Thanksgiving dinner. I haven't heard yet what they're eating at Polly's place next Thursday, but last I read it's not going to be Giblet.