United Poultry Concerns
United Poultry Concerns (UPC) is led by the enigmatic Karen Davis and routinely protests the eating of chicken, turkey, ducks, eggs, and other poultry products. The group can be counted on to launch a letter-writing campaign every year around Thanksgiving, attempting to lay down a guilt trip on those of us who choose to eat turkey.
UPC occasionally delves into traditional “animal-welfare” operations, forcing the closure of farmers’-market chicken stands whose merchandise’s living conditions don’t measure up to its standards. It’s worth noting, however, that those standards are ridiculously high. “The animal rights movement,” Davis has said, “has a huge built-in disadvantage, which is the inability of the victims to participate in it.” Accordingly, she keeps over 100 birds on her property (a self-declared “chicken sanctuary”) and rescues birds from poultry operations, not always legally. Some of them live with Davis in her house as “chicken companions.” She sleeps with them when they’re sick and lets them have the run of her house.
Most of UPC’s activities, though, are fairly regarded as theatre of the absurd. Its 2001 campaign to abolish the production and sale of “rubber chicken” toys is a good example. UPC’s Davis says that these comic props are “cruel and obscene.” She also claimed that these harmless gag items have “pornographic implications.”
In October 2000, the Wine Tasting Association of Washington, D.C., held a foie gras seminar, and United Poultry Concerns was out in full force. This is what Association chief Mark Phillips wrote in an e-mail about the ensuing spectacle:
“[They] protested with a bullhorn in front of my house last weekend and it took eight officers from five squad cars to disperse them. They placed a large 4 ft tall stuffed animal duck on my lawn two nights ago with a metal pipe shoved down its throat and a can of corn open next to it. The last few days were particularly intense with the phone calls, faxes and emails … Around the clock. The police were out in force at the seminar last night as we knew they would be protesting. The woman who spear-headed the protests showed up to the seminar room as we were setting up, demanded we cancel it and then kind of flipped out when I said no. She was escorted from the room by DC police officers. It was quite a scene outside the hotel with a dozen or more protesters present. Police cars with lights flashing made it that much more of a spectacle. One woman was petting a duck.”
In recent years, United Poultry Concerns has tried to spoil the fun for thousands of children at the annual “Easter Egg Roll” on the White House lawn. UPC members have been out in full force, scaring children with stories of the supposed “total suffering” of egg-laying hens and brandishing photos of bloody, decapitated fowl.
Worse yet, in a recent “open letter” to an on-line vegetarian journal, UPC’s president (Karen Davis) showed that her group’s “Concern” apparently doesn’t extend to victims of human tragedy. Referring to the terrible loss of life in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Davis argued that “the people who died in the attack did not suffer more terrible deaths than animals in slaughterhouses suffer every day.” Using cold, utilitarian logic, Davis concluded that “the deaths of thousands of people” actually “reduced the amount of pain and suffering in the world,” since they wouldn’t be around to eat any more chickens.
United Poultry Concerns is the brainchild of Karen Davis. She calls the shots and determines the organization’s priorities. Davis is a true believer in animal “rights.” Karen Davis seems motivated by a philosophy which has overtaken her life, and being thought of as an angry radical doesn’t faze her: “I would like to see our movement stop telling people to take only little steps and encourage them to take BIG steps…. People in our movement often make it a point of pride that they are ‘not angry.’ I do not consider not being angry at an abuser a cause for pride. To me that kind of tolerance is flaccid and apathetic. How to structure legitimate anger along with other elements in order to wake people up and free the animals is the question.”